Guest Post by Kathleen Loehr
I am committed to growing women’s philanthropy.
Why? I’ve been in the philanthropic sector for 35 years as a woman donor, fundraiser and nonprofit leader. In that time, I’ve seen women’s power and earnings grow – and the philanthropic sector repeatedly fail to take full advantage of this new reality.
I’m frustrated that the philanthropic sector is behind the times. The consumer world has begun to adapt to the rise of women’s influence and economic clout – in their strategy, training, conversations and advertising. They know their bottom line depends on following the money and decision-makers of today – women.
In contrast, the clear majority of nonprofits and universities still use fundraising practices that either turn off women or gain only minimal support from them. So much more is possible.
What does the for profit world know that nonprofits don’t heed?
Here are some facts:
The two biggest indicators for philanthropy are education and earnings. Looking at the statistics above, it stands to reason that women now have the potential for increased and influential roles in philanthropy.
I know these facts and I know how I’d like to make a difference. Yet I still get asked for a gift in ways that don’t resonate with me. In my sixth decade, I fully understand that like every woman, I have gender shaping and gender wounds. I have hard-won wisdom, earned from rich failures and great successes. These experiences shape me – as they do all women – as a donor and a leader. I don’t care about deadlines, or organizational goals, or what someone else gave. I want to be valued, listened to and asked my opinion. I want to be involved with others to make an impact. I want to see women represented on leadership councils and boards. When I don’t feel connected, I give small gifts out of obligation or short-term needs I see. When I feel seen by a nonprofit and known for all that I care about, my giving is bigger, it is sustained over a longer time and my involvement is deeper.
I epitomize all the research we now know – gender matters in philanthropy. Men and women have different motivations for giving and different patterns of giving. One is not better than the other; they are simply different. By not embracing the differences, we look for resources for our critical societal issues with one hand tied behind our backs, unconsciously using outdated and biased approaches that may not appeal to half our population. By embracing gendered differences we will engage more potential donors, generate more buzz for our missions and raise more money. It’s that simple.
The destiny of our civil society is at stake. Just look around – we see women standing up, speaking out, marching, governing, leading and taking action across the political spectrum. We are signaling the time is now. We are making new ways to contribute to the world. Women are done waiting on the sidelines.
To help accelerate women’s philanthropy, I’ve put all I’ve learned into my new book, Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy, that translates research on how women give into practical action. I want every nonprofit and university to read it and then adapt their fundraising to acknowledge women’s preferences and raise more money for today and tomorrow’s challenges. Join me. Don’t miss this moment.
When we take action to show that gender matters and adapt our strategies and behaviors to attract half of our population, we’ll stop losing the significant funding, experience, leadership, innovation and connections that women bring. We must not ignore:
It is time to focus on women as much as we do on men – as we build our strategies, hire our leaders, build our boards, coach our teams and grow our funding. Focusing on women is additive. With a new, intentional approach, we will accelerate how we can best serve our beneficiaries.
About the author: Kathleen Loehr is the principal of Kathleen Loehr & Associates, a philanthropy and leadership practice based in Alexandria, Virginia. Drawing on her 35 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Kathleen partners with nonprofit leaders and organizations to maximize philanthropy, strategy and leadership by focusing on women.
Kathleen is chair of the Advisory Council for the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. Her women’s philanthropy expertise results from her efforts to engage more women at universities (Cornell University, University of San Francisco, Duke University, The College of William Mary), nonprofits (Women Moving Millions, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the National Women’s History Museum), sororities (Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, the Alpha Phi Foundation) and girls’ schools (Louise S. McGehee School). She is also a regular speaker for CASE conferences on women’s philanthropy. Her book, Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy, reviews the compelling research about how women give and provides practical steps for fundraisers to adapt their practices and grow resources from women.
Kathleen was a C-suite fundraising leader for the American Red Cross, Save the Children, the International Crisis Group and key departments at Cornell University. Other consulting partners have included national nonprofits such as the Girl Scouts, The Salvation Army and the Jewish Federations of North America, as well as community nonprofits serving children, vulnerable families and the homeless.
As a leadership coach, certified through the Strozzi Institute, Kathleen focuses on coaching rising women leaders (and men!) in nonprofits. Her coachees value that she understands their goals and brings empathy, honesty, practical experience and powerful questions to help them make choices that support their visions. Kathleen also is a trusted advisor to nonprofit leaders and family foundations. Through individual and facilitated group work, she helps blend their aspirations to serve the common good with the commitment to create effective and sustained impact. Trained in the change management model of Appreciative Inquiry, Kathleen combines nonprofit and fundraising expertise, coaching and strategy to help families, individuals and groups navigate change.
Kathleen holds a bachelor’s degree in Government from Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences. She is a board member for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and volunteers with several nonprofits.
More than work has shaped Kathleen. Growing up in a family of 10, she learned to effectively build relationships up, down and out. Her humanitarian focus came from living abroad in Bolivia and Italy, as well as extensive travels in Africa, Europe, and Central and South America, where she witnessed human dignity in the face of extreme poverty. She keeps her curiosity alive by paying attention to the questions and passions of the Millenials, Generation Z and children in her big, blended family.