The impact of generation and gender on philanthropy

Written on Dec 15, 2017

A new report shows how women play a central role in philanthropy, leading charitable giving within their families, using their time and skills to advance causes within their communities and embodying the purpose and heart that underpin philanthropic goals. 

Women’s influence in and approach to giving has evolved over the last 40 years, reflecting the societal changes that have altered gender roles. While older women are entering retirement after decades of taking on expanding roles for women, including a greater say in household giving decisions, their daughters - the beneficiaries of greater opportunity - are using those expanded roles to help lead philanthropy in new directions. 

The report from Fidelity Charitable highlights this evolution in giving, spotlighting the differences between generations of women who give and further examining the similarities among all women, and how their philanthropic journeys are distinctive from men’s. 

Key findings:

  • Boomer women are more confident and strategic in their philanthropy. Seventy-two percent say they are satisfied with their giving, compared with 55% of Millennials.
  • Millennial women are more likely to lead with their hearts and take a more social approach to giving.  Three-quarters say they follow their hearts when giving rather than a strategic plan. They are also more likely to discuss and encourage giving among their peers and make philanthropy an emotional part of their relationships with spouses and partners.
  • Millennials are open to trying new forms of giving, such as crowdfunding or giving circles, while Boomers engage in more traditional giving methods.
  • Regardless of generation, women’s overall approach to giving is distinct from men’s. Women are more spontaneous, engaged and empathetic. Half say they give in the moment rather than using a giving strategy, compared with 40% of men who say the same.
  • Women look to experts to inform their decisionmaking around giving, while men are more likely to seek advice from peers or family members.
  • Millennial men report more uncertainty (46%) than Millennial women (34%) about where to turn for giving direction.
  • Women are more likely to have questions around the finances of giving. They are less confident than men about deciding which tax strategies or methods to use for giving and which assets to contribute to charity.

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