Women Likelier Than Men to Support Most Types of Charities

Women are significantly more likely than men to give to almost every type of charitable cause and are equally likely to support the rest, after controlling for education, income and other factors that influence giving, according to new research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. 

The findings were unveiled December 7 at the TED Women 2010 conference.

In Causes Women Support, WPI director Debra Mesch examined whether differences exist between male and female single-headed households across 11 types of charitable causes. Her study found that women’s likelihood of giving exceeded that for men in eight of the 11 causes: religious institutions; organizations that help the needy; combined purposes (such as community foundations); health care and medical research, education, youth and family, community and international organizations. 

Women were as likely as men to give to arts and cultural organizations, environmental nonprofit groups and “other.”

Clearly, gender matters in philanthropy,” Mesch said in a statement. “Women and men are both engaged, but their giving priorities are different.  Additional research will help us better understand why women are more likely to give to certain types of organizations.” 

The new findings are the second part of the Women Give 2010 report. “This new research affirms for individual women donors that they are part of a larger community of female philanthropists who share their passion and their desire to strengthen their hometowns and the world,” Lisa Witter, a member of the WPI Council and chief strategy officer for Fenton Communications, said in the statement. 

Women Give 2010compares philanthropic giving between men and women based on a nationally representative sample. It uses data from the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study, the nation’s

largest study that tracks giving patterns among the same households over time. Previous studies of gender and philanthropy have relied on data related to giving by households and married couples, making the effects of gender on giving difficult to identify.

Women Give 2010analyzed only giving by households headed by single people (never married, separated/divorced or widowed) in order to examine gender differences. Researchers controlled for factors that affect philanthropic behavior such as income, age, race, education and number of children to allow direct comparisons between men and women.

The study also looked at the areas of greatest difference in likelihood of giving by gender. Women are more than 50% likelier to support international and community causes, although fewer than 6% of both men and women support these causes. In descending order, women are:

  • 55% more likely than males to give to international causes
  • 51% more likely to give to community
  • 42% more likely to give to religious institutions
  • 38% more likely to give to health care
  • 32% more likely to give to youth & family
  • 31% more likely to give to education
  • 18% more likely to help people in need
  • 14% more likely to give for combined purposes

The first Women Give 2010 report, released in October, reported differences in giving to charity between male and female single-headed households across income levels. That report found that (1) in every income group from the lowest ($23,509 or less) to the highest (more than $103,000), female-headed households were more likely to give to charity than male-headed households; (2) in every income group except for one, women gave more than men (almost twice as much); (3) when comparing females to males by singles’ marital status, women were more likely to give and give more than men—except for widowers who gave more than widows.  

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute seeks to further the understanding of women’s philanthropy through research, education and knowledge dissemination.  The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University is a center dedicated to increasing the understanding of philanthropy and improving its practice worldwide through research, teaching, training and public affairs programs in philanthropy, fundraising and management of nonprofit organizations.

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