“The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world” is a sentiment attributed to William Ross Wallace, an American poet with Scottish roots (not of Braveheart fame), praising motherhood as a preeminent force for change in the world. Indeed, certainly as it applies to driving positive social change, we can extend this acknowledgement of the powerful influence of women in general.
I recently attended a Council for National Policy meeting where focus was placed on the impact and significant voting power that conservative, faithful women will have in the upcoming presidential election.
Studies of philanthropic trends in America confirm that the same principles apply to women supporters of nonprofits, both volunteer and financial donors, and particularly of faith-first Christian nonprofits that meet the physical and spiritual needs of the hurting.
As such, and put more plainly, to achieve success in our ministry endeavors, we must be even more effective at engaging women donors.
In his recent feature in The NonProfit Times, Mark Hrywna reports that new research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) confirms powerful trends that have been observed in The Giving Institute’s annual study of philanthropy in America:
“Women Give 2020 uses data and interviews from four partner organizations – GivingTuesday via Charity Navigator, GlobalGiving, Givelify and Growfund via Global Impact – to develop case studies based on more than 3.7 million gift transactions. Three overall themes emerged across all four platforms:
- Women give more gifts than men and contribute a greater proportion of dollars than men. Across all four case studies, women give greater numbers of gifts than men – almost two-thirds of gifts across all platforms. While average gift size is relatively equal, women are giving more gifts and thus, more dollars through each platform studied, about 53-61% of dollars. (In some cases, men’s gifts are a little larger.)
- Women give smaller gifts than men and give to smaller organizations than men, in three of the four case studies. Men’s gifts are likely to go to large organizations.
- Women’s and girls’ organizations receive substantially more support from women donors vs. male donors. Depending on the case study, women gave between 60-70% of dollars to women’s and girls’ organizations.”
This research also shows significant gender differences in how women and men use the Internet and social networks. Across the platforms studied, women collectively give more using digital tools as compared to men.
Does this mean women are inherently more generous today than men? We can’t draw that conclusion. Audience size, specifically, has much to do with these generosity trends.
Research suggests that of the consumers of faith-based, nonprofit and ministry content online, 65% or more are women. In some media segments such as radio broadcast, podcast and social media, the audience is likely to be 75% or more women.
Thus, winning the attention and support of caring, faithful and generous women is more important than ever to the long-term success of your outreach.
5 Tips to Connect with the Generosity of Women
1. Be “more” there.
As women are a powerful force in philanthropy and they’re the largest part of the online audience, double down on your commitment to regularly meet them where they’re at online. Frequency matters. Note that I’m not suggesting increased online activity in lieu of your vitally important direct mail and other development outreach.
The strategy here is “both/and,” not “either/or.” Publishing the ongoing developments, needs and heart-lifting successes of your ministry with discipline, several times weekly, will soften the beach for timely appeals of support – regardless of the platform.
2. Visualize your audience.
It’s so easy to adopt a corporate voice when we desire to instill confidence in our capacity and to impress with statistics and outcomes.
We’d be better off imagining a conversation with 10 friends and 6 or 7 of them are women. What would they need to hear and know in order to be excited about their opportunity to impact the lives of others through a partnership with your ministry?
3. Show me… me!
A psychological truism is that we inherently and naturally desire sameness. Even if your staff or leadership skews male, make sure that women have a prominent role in the messaging, imaging, positioning and branding of your ministry across communications media. It’ll help lower the trust hurdles.
Remember the research above? Women give more to women’s organizations.
4. Scan for bias.
As communicators, it’s so easy to “read in” meaning and context to our messages and “read out” unintended biases or small cues that can be gender insensitive or even (gasp!) offensive.
I recommend having representatives of both genders and two age demographics – above and below 40 years old – review and comment on your most important messaging and appeals, including a review of your website and key social media platforms. Really MT? Four panel representatives? If you really want your messages to land as intended – yes!
It may sound like a stereotype, but there’s truth at its root. Generally speaking, both men and organizations are so busy speaking that they struggle with listening. Who is generally excellent at listening? Women!
As such, women value relationships that engage them in a two-way dialog and demonstrate active listening. It’s why surveys, testimonies and interview-style storytelling can be so powerful. Listen and show me you’re listening!
BONUS: Lean in to the power of social endorsement.
With the rise of the Internet has come the death of “the expert.” For better or worse, “survey says” has increasingly become more influential to people’s practical decision making than the wisdom of governors, doctors, lawyers, pastors and the unerring truth of “the organization.”
Like with any widespread social tipping point, the key is to play into the change.
- Consider how you can equip your passionate and discerning, kind and generous, and well-networked women donors with the tools to endorse your good work and introduce their friends.
- Encourage them to identify as part of your ministry team as an insider. Share how they’re investing for a better community.
- Challenge them to recruit others to join them in the crusade. Giving is rewarding. Giving with your friends is more rewarding.
At Brewer Direct, I have the distinct privilege of serving alongside a team of men and women that proportionally trends similarly to the percentages discussed above. I’m continually impressed by the women of BDI’s strength and drive, as well as their heart and instinct. Frankly, I think it’s a strategic advantage offered by our services to partners.
God made us beautifully, wonderfully and vitally different for balance. Understanding and respecting those differences while considering the audience of our fundraising endeavors is worth the work!