The Changing Image of Women Donors

My wife Linda enjoys reminding people who put women down that “Women hold up half the sky.” And who’s to argue with Linda? (Certainly not me.)

But women have not been holding up their half of the sky when it came to donating to worthy causes … until fairly recently.

It used to be that women gave less than men. This has changed. Dramatically. So if you write fundraising copy or help non-profit groups design fundraising appeals, you ignore this shift at your peril.

An ongoing study being done by the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University shows that single women are 37% more likely to be donors than are single men. In addition, single women – whether divorced, widowed, or never married – give, on average, about $600 more than single men.

According to Cheryl Altinkemer, board member of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center, “We didn’t know women would be more philanthropic. Women are sometimes under the radar screen, because they tend to volunteer and they tend to give anonymously at a higher level – older women especially.”

An increasing number of women are building businesses and controlling wealth … and, as prospects for your fundraising clients, they have very distinct differences from men.

Level of Commitment

Women are extremely passionate about the causes championed by the organizations they support. Because of this, they want to do more than simply write a check. This means, when writing to women, you have to understand their need to feel a sense of connection with their organization of choice. And – very important – they want to know what the organization is doing with their money.

Women spend many hours volunteering, going on trips planned by the organization, getting to know the staff, and joining the board of directors.

Women are also concerned about the quality of the organization and what it accomplishes. After they write a check to a charity, they are more interested than men in the outcome.

So if you’re targeting a group of potential donors that include women, your copy needs to address these important issues.

  • Tell them what the money donated in the past accomplished.
  • Tell them specifically what the money you’re now requesting will do.
  • Put a human face on the cause with real stories of successes.
  • Find ways to get prospective donors involved in the organization and its cause … even if they can’t donate now.

The Way Women Give Is Changing, Too

Because women now have more control over their own finances than they did in the past, they’re more comfortable giving multi-year gifts and making larger promises to organizations. Many of those charities are devoted to empowering, educating, and providing health and social services to girls and women.

As donors, women also tend to be more concerned than men with disenfranchised populations, like the poor, children, critically ill, or uneducated groups. Their commitment to the disenfranchised cuts across gender boundaries.

Convincing Women to Donate

So what’s the key to securing first-time and lasting donations from women donors? Relationships.

Certainly, you want to appeal to a woman’s emotions in crafting your copy, but you must go beyond that. If you want her to respond to your fundraising appeals, you must cultivate a strong relationship between her and the organization. This means giving her the opportunity to get to know the organization, giving her ways to be active with it, and demonstrating that you respect her ideas.

Success in fundraising boils down to following a simple “law” of copywriting. You must constantly be reacquainting yourself with your prospects. Not the way they used to be … but the way they are right now.

[Ed. Note: This article was prepared with information from the Women Donors Network ( and Fundraising Success Magazine (]

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Published: May 1, 2006

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