Go For Her: 4 Ways to Reveal the Women Behind the Giving in 2015

By Preeti Gill

High Heel with people followingWomen are wonderful. It should go without saying, but I think women deserve special attention by the Prospect Research and philanthropic communities. Research shows women give more than men. We volunteer more. We care a great deal about making a meaningful difference in the world. Recent reports about women’s giving from TD Bank and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (IUPUI) help Prospect Research professionals appreciate this rather large segment of prospective donors in North America.

Recently, I blogged about lovely ladies who left transformational bequest gifts to pleasantly-surprised charities. I wondered whether the research resources I currently use would have uncovered these shy, quiet, would-be philanthropists while they were alive. [Read more here http://bitly.com/1yvOj49] So, I’m beginning to view Prospect Research in ways that can reveal these wonderful women. This involves a re-engineering of existing search techniques, strategies, and assumptions. Here are four ways to make women viable prospective donors for my organization and yours in 2015.

1 – Make women shine in your database

When it comes to women, accurately representing them by name can require continuous care. One common scenario is when a woman marries a man and changes her last name (or hyphenates her and his last names) to reflect their union. This kind of name change is easy enough to track for a prospective donor couple in your database, provided dedicated upkeep.

Consider changing the salutation as a woman ages. For instance, it’s cute to see “Miss Preeti Gill” on the mailing label of a direct mail appeal and the alumni magazine that my undergraduate alma mater sends me on occasion. It brings me back to the good old days stressing over mid-terms and final essays.

A woman deserves her own record in your fundraising database, even if her man is your primary prospect. She may outlive him and inherit his wealth and granting wishes. She may be more interested in your organization than him, even if he has the official connection and ability.

2 – Research the woman of a couple first

I just started doing this to rewire any potential gender bias I bring to research requests. When a fundraiser inquires about a prospective or existing donor couple (assuming heterosexual), I start my search on the woman first and try to gather as much stand-alone information about her life, career, family, other connectors and philanthropic history independent of her man. This technique helps me view the woman as a viable prospect who may require a different kind of approach or engagement compared to her man.

Try it. You might like it! While you’re at it, take your screening scores with a healthy dose of skepticism. Low-balling women’s wealth indicators is an issue, as one former colleague at a higher education institution recently told me. Screening may miss non-career, hence low-profile, women altogether, since it’s based largely on public corporate sources.

Regardless, one of the many features I enjoy on iWave is the Infinata data set which allows you to segment a prospecting search by country, province, wealth score and gender.

3 – Mine your past and expected legacy donors  

Angela D. White, a philanthropic consultant in Indiana, coined the term “bag lady syndrome” to describe women who reserve their major giving after death to ensure they don’t outlive their means. This is particularly true of civic and early baby boomer women who don’t feel the kind of ownership over their inherited wealth in the same way younger self-earners do.

Given that, take a closer look at legacy donors past and present. Do you spot patterns in level of education, geographic location, life circumstance and prior gifts when you compare today’s women with yesterday’s legacy donors? Your gift planner partner may have an opinion here too.

4 – Follow #gogirlresearch

You’re on Twitter, right? If you’re a non-profit professional who tweets (or just creeps), there’s a good chance you already follow #fundraising, #philanthropy and maybe even #fundchat and #prospectresearch.

I think successful career women and philanthropists deserve their own dedicated space in the Twitterverse. It’s where you’ll find Prospect Researchers post light-hearted gender-focused observations; news articles about female philanthropists past and present; and the latest Forbes piece about a power woman in Corporate America (and Canada). We’re curating dedicated social mentions about women in the same way the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs BC decided they require their own special membership organization. (Sorry, guys!)

Follow along and contribute here: https://twitter.com/hashtag/gogirlresearch

Preeti Gill manages the Prospect Research program at Vancouver Foundation, Canada’s largest community foundation. Some pipeline renewal and stewardship efforts are peppered throughout her day-to-day responsibilities. This Sole Searcher has been a loyal iWave subscriber for longer than she can remember.

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