AFP Conference Roundup: Understanding, Engaging and Cultivating Women as Donors
Before organizations can properly engage women as donors, they need to assess their own readiness and capacity for cultivating them.
So said Carol Carpenter, major- and planned-giving officer at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Allentown, Pa., in her session "Understanding and Engaging High Potential Women 101," at the 46th annual AFP International Conference on Fundraising held in New Orleans two weeks ago.
To determine organizational readiness and capacity for cultivating women, Carpenter suggested rating your organization on a scale of one to 10 regarding the level at which it:
- knows the facts about women, wealth and giving;
- has a way of identifying women donors;
- has an analysis of women's giving over the last five years;
- knows the role women play in gifts from couples;
- acknowledges women donors accurately;
- includes women in standard development practices;
- promotes women in philanthropy;
- uses vacancies on the board of directors and volunteer committees to enhance relationships with women;
- asks women to give; and
- teaches staff how to communicate effectively with women.
The three steps to getting your organization ready to understand this target group are:
1. Know the facts about the importance of women donors. Some quick facts shared by Carpenter: Women control 60 percent of the nation's wealth; the number of women earning $100,000 or more a year has tripled in the last decade; 46 percent of the country's wealthiest people are women; women own 40 percent of the country's businesses (10.4 million); women will inherit $41 trillion in transferred assets via estates in the next 50 years; and women outlive men by an average of seven years.
Carpenter added that single women are more likely than single men to give, and a higher percentage of women volunteer than men.
2. Know how to identify women in your database, analyze their giving patterns and acknowledge giving. Also look at the positioning of women inside your office.
"If someone from the outside is looking into your organization, do they see themselves?" Carpenter asked.
Offer women board seats and leadership roles, and seek input from women leaders in the community. But don't add women to your board and staff for window dressing; add them because they will enrich and strengthen your organization and can really make a difference.
3. Prepare your staff to communicate with women. Does your staff know that women as donors are different and how they are different? Focus on communications and relationships. Add women to prospect lists and ask them for gifts, and publicize news of their gifts. Relationships between women donors are based on trust, mutual respect and community responsibility. Carpenter said to focus on the three Cs: connect, collaborate, celebrate.
Women have an "it takes a village" mentality, she said, which is why giving circles, where groups of like-minded individuals come together to raise funds and make a difference, are so effective. There are more than 400 women's giving circles in the U.S., ranging in size from three members to 500 members. Giving circles pool the resources of many, target an area of the community to give to, and help increase awareness and understanding of philanthropy.
Carpenter recommended the following five steps to creating a giving circle within your organization:
Identify key leaders who have a passion for your cause, the time and energy to devote to organizing a giving circle, and the charisma to pull others into it. You want people who are available and accessible, but who also have the means to give.
Have these key leaders hold focus groups, inviting other prospective women donors to their homes to ask them open-ended questions about what the goal of the giving circle should be. Tabulate the results and follow up with participants.
Facilitate a core team meeting at your office. The core team should be made up of individuals with a passion for the cause and chemistry with one another, but also a bit of friction to keep the group challenged. Carpenter stressed that organizations be open and honest with women about what they want them to do and get involved with.
2. Form your vision
Determine the giving circle's big-picture purpose; mission; structure (e.g., board, bylaws); who it will look to for support; its financial goals; and techniques for growing the circle, e.g., personal relationships, events, volunteering, civic engagement. When you make a decision, Carpenter said, stick to it.
3. Build consensus
Decide what the giving circle will support, and don't make it too complicated, she warned. Develop criteria for what project you'll support, and have members make presentations on projects directly associated with the organization. Facilitate Q-and-A sessions, and then have members vote on the project.
When you launch the giving circle, do it with a splash. Leverage media to get an article in the area paper, and put an announcement of it in your newsletter. Recognize giving-circle leadership, and list the names of members. Develop a plan for oversight of the project, and train volunteers and staff to help with fundraising and membership.
5. Measure results
Measure success of the giving circle by the impact it has on people's lives. Measures to look at are: number of individuals served; number of dollars raised; and the number of members in the giving circle (engagement and retention).
Carpenter said the average time women stay in giving circles is about five to six years. The first year they're involved they might just sit on the sidelines, but over the next few years women tend to get more involved. She also said to be aware that as your giving circle increases in size, the all-around level of engagement might decrease.
Giving-circle members become advocates for those who are less fortunate, and the process demystifies philanthropy for them, leading members to become more engaged in giving going forward, Carpenter said. Members also tend to become more aware of community problems, increase their political involvement and gain a new social network.