The Six Principles that Make Women’s Philanthropy Work.

Six principles have emerged to describe successful women’s philanthropy.

Many different women’s philanthropy models are achieving their goals quickly when they follow these principles. They are fundamental tenets that serve as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior.

The six key principles below are what I have observed to hold true across all thriving models.

The 6 key principles to successful
women’s philanthropy

The 6 key principles to successful women’s philanthropy

1. Pause before a reset.

Successful organizations resist the urge to jump in and instead pause first to learn. They review industry research and their own donor data and find out how their practices are not resonating with donors. They can then see new opportunities that were right in front of them all along.

2. Women’s input is key.

Instead of making assumptions, successful organizations ask women about their motivations, preferences, and goals. The organizations that intentionally solicit then listen to their input discover that women share ideas and strategies that can accelerate fundraising.

3. Women bring more than money.

Women bring their talents, time, networks and testimony, as well as finances, to the causes they care about. Successful organizations engage women donors, volunteers, and leaders in ways that acknowledge this full definition of philanthropy, which in turn provides a tremendous lift to achieve critical goals.

4. Leadership involvement is pivotal.

Successful organizations have leadership involvement that fundamentally alters the path and scope of success. Organizational decisionmakers control the vision, the strategic priorities, and the ability to move resources that allow for real transformation and big outcomes.

5. Starting reveals the path forward.

Successful organizations realize that they are creating something new with few precedents so they start with a first initiative. They know that the success of their first women’s philanthropy focus then opens up awareness of other areas where women’s support will help the mission flourish.

6. The work is evolutionary.

Successful organizations know that this work is not a “program” with a singular end game. Across time they integrate the better practices and create significant cultural change where all donors are met as they prefer, not just a few. The results are many more diverse partners, and funding, to achieve the impact they seek to have on the world.

Integrate and apply these six principles, and you will see success.

Today’s women’s philanthropy initiatives are embracing these principles and using them to guide their strategies. I believe that if current and future institutional models continue to adhere to these principles, we will witness in five years significant acceleration in the visibility, numbers, and transformational impact of women philanthropists for our institutions. I’d love to share case studies and insights on how to apply these principles in your organization, so please join our email list. Or, if you want to know my background and how I came to be an expert in this topic, click here.

“Kathleen was a terrific resource and asset to us as we launched our planning for William & Mary’s Women & Philanthropy initiative. She was instrumental in guiding us through the planning and research stage and then helped us to formulate our strategic plan based on our findings and goals. The real test has been over time. The plan she helped us to create did not sit on a shelf. It has guided our work and resulted in outcomes far beyond what we thought we could achieve. We consider her a vital partner in the success of our work to date.”

Valerie Cushman
Senior Director, Alumni Engagement & Inclusion Initiatives, William & Mary

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