In a typical March, we would celebrate Women’s History month. We would have thirty-one days of heralding the accomplishments of ladies across a spectrum of industries, age groups, and ethnicities.  We would attend luncheons, watch documentaries, and like Instagram posts featuring amazing women. This March, anything but typical, our focus is on first responders, virus testing, Federal rescue and stimulus packages, and toilet paper.  Our women’s luncheons have been cancelled, the networks are covering the Coronavirus 24/7 and our social media feeds are filled with photos of Zoom meetings and social distancing coping strategies.  When we get to the other side of this, we are going to have a lot on our plates to deliver on our missions and re-engage our communities.

One of our most important constituencies is women. As non-profit leaders, we can gather insights about how to amplify our engagement of this affinity group from the research of Indiana University’s Women’s Philanthropy Institute (IUWPI).  Dedicated to studying all of the factors that influence the charitable behaviors of women, IUWPI conducts an annual study related to or intersecting with women in philanthropy called Women Give.

IUWPI’s most recent study, Women Give 2019, explores the relationship between race and philanthropy. The most in depth of the three Women Give studies, I highly recommend reading this one start to finish. My takeaways:

  • Women in communities of color are less engaged in formal volunteerism and volunteer informally at higher rates.
    • “Women in communities of color embrace an expansive definition of philanthropy that involves giving of time, talent, treasure and testimony, whether formally or informally.”
  • Women’s giving amounts are consistent across race and ethnicity, with married women giving more than single women and single women giving more than single men.
  • We are seeing a rise of “identity based” giving circles, with gender as the biggest identity specific group. These groups invest two types of capital: bonding social capital and bridging social capital.
    • Bonding social capital circulates within a group or community, looking inward and benefiting people who look alike. An example would be Alpha Kappa Alpha, an African American sorority that focuses on supporting African American women.
    • Bridging social capital transmits across groups, is out-ward looking and links diverse people. Think of Women United, a racially- and ethnically- diverse group of women that invest in elevating early education for all children.

The Non-Profit Leader’s Call to Action:

  1. Non-profit organizations that do not have women’s affinity groups should create them. Identify a small founding group and establish a social investment imperative that aligns with your mission and includes giving of time, talent, treasure and testimony.
  2. For those organizations that already have a women’s affinity group, consider establishing a subgroup that is comprised of and serves an ethnic or racial group within your community. That subgroup should explore any unique or informal way to volunteer, broadening your understanding of how to engage and better serve the ethnic or racial group.

By taking a few, strategic actions today to engage more and different women, non-profit leaders will accelerate their impact tomorrow.