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Women’s Charitable Giving Reached New Heights in 2020

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What You Need to Know

  • Fidelity Charitable's new study found the COVID-19 pandemic bolstered many givers' generosity.
  • Before the outbreak, 75% of women said giving back was an important part of their lives. That number rose to 84% last year.
  • Women participated in many giving activities at higher rates than men, but were less likely to know of financial strategies that facilitate greater impact.

A study released Wednesday by Fidelity Charitable shows how the pandemic bolstered many donors’ generosity.

Women have long been active and engaged in charitable giving. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, 75% of women said giving back was an important part of their lives, compared with 69% of men who said this. That number increased to 84% last year.

For men in the study, the increase was even more dramatic, up 12 percentage points to 81%, putting them nearly on par with women.

In addition, 43% of men said they gave considerably more to charity in 2020 than they had the previous year, compared with 34% of women who did so. 

The study found that young women were particularly moved by the pandemic. Half of millennial women said the crisis had made charitable giving a bigger priority in their lives, compared with 31% of their Generation X and 25% of their baby boomer counterparts. 

Eighty-six percent of women in the study said they wish they could do more to create positive social change. They participated in many giving activities at higher rates than men, including volunteerism. 

More women than men made non-financial gifts, bought from socially responsible businesses or donated through social media or online giving platforms. Women were also likelier than men to rank either hunger, access to basic health services or access to shelter or affordable housing as one of the top challenges facing the world.

“Women will continue to lead charitable giving decisions in many households, but the innate desire to make a difference in the world is more apparent than ever in all donors,” Fidelity Charitable’s president, Pamela Norley, said in a statement. “Men and women still engage in giving very differently, and there are ways that women can do even more.”

Artemis Strategy Group conducted a research study about donor motivations and behaviors in March 2020, surveying 3,055 adults in the U.S. who had donated at least $1,000 to charity in 2019. A follow-up survey in January among 830 people in the U.S. who had donated at least $1,000 to charity in 2020 detected shifts in donor thinking due to the events of that year.

Charitable Opportunities for Women

Even though women participated in many giving activities at higher rates, they were less likely than men to be aware of or engage in many financial strategies that could facilitate greater impact. 

For example, only 17% of women surveyed had made an impact investment — a purposeful investment that generates financial returns, while also helping to achieve social or environmental benefits — compared with a quarter of men. 

Among women who owned stocks or bonds, 48% were aware that publicly held assets can be used to fund charitable donations — potentially minimizing the donor’s tax burden and enabling her to make a bigger donation — compared with 60% of men. 

Similarly, 43% of women knew that privately held assets can be donated, compared with 48% of men.

This knowledge gap is a prime opportunity for financial advisors to engage with female clients on a topic that is important to them, according to Fidelity Charitable. But only 14% of women in the study said they had spoken with a financial advisor about charitable planning strategies, compared with 20% of men who had done so. 

Millennials Drive Change

The study found that generational change is quickly shifting the philanthropic landscape, but it is not necessarily closing the gender gap related to charitable planning strategies. 

Millennials of both genders were likelier than the average donor population to have engaged in newer forms of giving back, such as supporting socially responsible businesses and donating through social media. 

Millennial women, however, still lagged their male counterparts in adopting charitable investment strategies, such as impact investing or microloans. 

And younger men were much likelier to have discussed philanthropic strategies with an expert. One in 3 millennial men said they have had a charitable planning conversation with a financial advisor, compared with 19% of millennial women.

(Photo: Shutterstock)