Guest Post by Preeti Gill
It has been an exciting and empowering year for women. We witnessed the first woman Hillary Clinton announce her intention to run for President of the United States (on social media). Finally, a woman Rachel Notley stood atop The Power 50 list of most influential citizens in Canadian Business Magazine. And a host of multi-million-dollar gift announcements by generous alumnae graced press releases by grateful liberal arts colleges including Smith and Wellesley. I like to call them philanthropic role models.
It has been an exciting and empowering year for yours truly too. Around this time last year, I encouraged my fellow prospect research colleagues to invert their approach by researching the woman of a donor couple first before turning to her man (on this very blog ). The Prospect Research Institute took a chance on me by publishing my work on researching women prospects and donors (on International Women’s Day). And I seized numerous opportunities to connect with other female researchers, fundraisers, donors and business leaders in a number of settings: talking circles, association events, conferences and social media. You’ll know what I mean if you follow #gogirlresearch on Twitter.
From the accumulation of all of these enlightening experiences, I have witnessed women of all age, ethnic, political and economic demographics – diverse women – be powerful connectors, generous donors and loyal supporters in the philanthropic realm. Three distinct powerful groups of wealthy women have emerged as ones to watch and research as prospective donors for your cause, no matter your charitable subsector.
It seems the network of women’s business, social and even philanthropic associations is growing. Over the past year alone, I’ve connected with women at Chicago Booth, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the Association of Women in Finance, the Women’s Leadership Circle at the Vancouver Board of Trade, Women in Leadership Foundation, Ms.Rupt and SheTalks. (It’s been a busy year, balancing small plates of hors d’oeuvres, wine glasses and stimulating chat.) Each group has its own special story of the gap it addresses, how it came together and the innovative women who started them. These are women who are formally educated, successful in their respective fields and exert powerful influence to bring other women together to support and advance each other. (By women, for women.)
Do you know who these women are? How do they intersect and interact with your own organization? Some are your alumnae. Others are your existing donors. They may even raise friends and funds for your organization along with balancing hectic careers and other volunteer roles. Finding these role models may require intentional searching as many escape your media monitor. These women may be interested in heart research; expanding a women’s shelter; or encouraging girls to pursue computer science degrees.
While we’ve heard about challenges facing women progressing in the technology sector, healthcare provides a bright spot for women. It makes sense given that women now earn about half of all medical degrees in North America. Forbes contributor Kate Harrison quoted a study that found women make up 78% of the healthcare workforce. They’re reinventing effective care through technological innovations that make it easier to access everything from insurance and medications to physician consultations and pain-free treatments. They’re making millions doing so. A brilliant role model is Elizabeth Holmes, 31, whose lab testing company, Theranos, is currently valued at $10 billion.
Why should prospect researchers and philanthropy junkies care about healthcare technology entrepreneurs? They’re giving away their considerable fortunes to charitable causes now, during their lifetimes. This past June, Dallas entrepreneur Lyda Hill made a $25 million gift to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center to fund bioinformatics, an area of study which provides tools for managing and analyzing extremely large data sets that are now crucial to addressing significant scientific and medical challenges. Miss Hill is a big data donor! There are other notable examples of transformational giving by female entrepreneurs in the health care realm like Kate Tiedemann, a German immigrant and eye instruments billionaire, whose name now graces a business school in Florida thanks to her $10 million gift. Stories like that of Miss Hill and Ms Tiedemann inspire us to brainstorm about the successful female entrepreneurs in our own locale’s health sector that are disrupting – in a good way – the way we take care of ourselves.
It’s never too early to start focusing your prospect research lens on the next generation of donors and prospects. A good starting point are the loyal and generous families who have established relationships with your organization already. Who are their daughters, nieces and cousins? These young women have already been exposed to the power of their families’ philanthropic pursuits and may be interested in charting their own respective courses to do good in the world. (Miss Hill, now in her seventies, is the granddaughter of an oil magnate.) The executive director of Women Moving Millions, Jessica Houssian, 35, is an emerging philanthropist and fundraiser who’s creating her own path. She gave a series of well-received talks in Vancouver recently that awoke my community to identify and engage women donors in more intentional ways. Mention of Jessica’s family followed her to each talk since she is the daughter of resort entrepreneur Joe Houssian. Someday, Jessica will be better known as a role model for feminist philanthropists, and less known for being her billionaire father’s daughter.
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About the author: Preeti Gill is a prospect researcher, writer and cat fancier in Vancouver, BC. Recently, she started a new blog called A Few Great Women, where she features prominent women in prospect research, fundraising and philanthropy. It’s her small attempt at closing the gender data gap in the non-profit sector. You can learn more about Preeti’s work at preetigill.ca.
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