Thirty-five years ago, Fortune Magazine reported that 87% of all wealth ultimately goes through the hands of a woman. Did you read that sentence? I have been talking, advising, and writing about women’s economic power for more than a quarter-century. Within the last month, I received from a former client a memo from his boss… “maybe we ought to start looking at our donor’s wives as a source of funding.” This person has heard and read about women’s philanthropy for decades, yet, in one sentence, he illustrates how many fundraisers still don’t get it. Not only is he late to the party on solicitation of women, but he further diminishes their place in society as ‘our donor’s wives.’
The Lilly School sends to major donors and former Board Members a NY Times article about women in philanthropy. NYT uses divorce and revenge as the leverage for philanthropy by the wife in the matter. Guess that is what it takes to get to the real story. Eighty-Seven (87%) percent of all wealth goes through the hands of a woman. Even the NYT is generally considered an enlightened publication and has to predicate an interest gift with the sniff of scandal.
I have been raising large gifts from women for decades. Now I am talking about $100k, $500k, million, and multi-million dollar gifts. I can tell you these women don’t need donor circles or only certain causes to believe in to make these gifts. What they need is RESPECT, sorry, Aretha! Perpetrators of demeaning women’s economic power aren’t just men, while I will grant you much of it is.
Being the son of a WWII Australian war-bride who arrived in America in the early 1950s and settled on divorcing this soldier before he committed suicide may have given me, at age 4, a perspective few other men have. She believed in education (got a few degrees), was at the forefront of prenatal care in America, and was identified as responsible for 10,000 births with her midwife status. She couldn’t get a loan on a house, or credit cards in her name; however, she eventually was celebrated in her community for her strength.
So no one has to tell me about how salesmen in the 50’s and 60’s hung up on my mother when it was clear there was no man in the household. Those days are slowly evaporating but slowly is an understatement. Today I am told the average age of a widow is 59 leaving ample time for second marriage and even a third with another person of wealth.
Understand, my role in life is to grow philanthropy. This message is to challenge those who don’t understand the incredible financial opportunity for philanthropy lies in the “hands of women.” I hope your institution understands and has respect for this prospect pool. To overlook the future of philanthropy would be regrettable.
Happy Valentines Day.