As we see in today’s headlines, women are raising their voices after lifetimes of not being heard or respected. Unfortunately, this history of marginalizing women’s voices often extended into the nonprofit sector.
Women regularly insist they are more than checkbooks, yet many feel this point is ignored. One woman in a recent focus group summarized what I so often hear: “This is not just about money. Women need to feel needed for something other than their money.” To bring forward the full value and impact of women’s philanthropy, we need to listen to what women are telling us. We need to do more than fundraise. We need to expand our efforts to holistic “resourcing.”
What is Resourcing?
Resourcing is reviewing the whole system to better determine what assistance would be most beneficial – whether money, time, information, in-kind support, network or community building. Ideally, a relational fundraising practice already includes this kind of resourcing to build deeper and more meaningful connections with donors. Transactional fundraising that does not encompass this broader definition of support might simply redistribute money from those who have it to where it’s lacking. In the process, we lose not only the potential for greater financial giving (as a result of a more robust relationship to the organization) but also a whole host of other valuable assets.
Looking Beyond the Dollar Signs: Other Resources Women Provide
In their book, Women & Philanthropy: Boldly Shaping a Better World, Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha A. Taylor list a number of these additional resources women provide beyond dollars:
- Intellectual Capital
- Nonhierarchical management
- Experience and a new perspective
- Listening skills
- Entrepreneurial approach
- Capacity to deliver change
- Consensus building
- Volunteer experience
- Nurturing and altruism
Employing a resourcing model expands our definition of philanthropy to one that better resonates with women. Many women look beyond dollars, preferring to create sustainable solutions. “[Being a] ‘philanthropist’ had to be redefined in my mind for me, which is more than just financing and funding,” one participant in a Women’s Philanthropy Institute survey of high-net-worth women said. “It’s actually being engaged in the work and putting in time and effort and care.”
Two Examples of Resourcing at Work
Here are two examples of resourcing at work, one focused on a woman’s expertise and the other on women’s networks:
- An alumna of the University of San Francisco was a leader in manufacturing. The advancement department connected her to a professor who wanted to enhance how he was teaching about supply-chain operations. She provided her expertise as well as some other connections and context to consider. This simple and respectful request spoke volumes – the university saw her and her many resources beyond finance. They valued her thoughts. They wanted to listen and to learn from her.
- McGill University had a very shallow pipeline of women leaders and major donors. It invited women leaders already engaged with the university to host dinners in their homes for their friends and colleagues who had gone to McGill. The table discussion was part catching up with each other, part talking about McGill’s latest vision and strategies. After salons in three different cities, the pipeline had grown significantly with many more women willing to stay in touch or become engaged with the university. McGill tapped into some of these women’s most valuable resources – their networks and their peer-to-peer testimony about the value of supporting the university.
When women believe they are welcomed as more than checkbooks, they feel respected, heard, valued and trusted. These feelings can lead to a willingness to speak up and give voice to what is not working and what they view as possible. If you treat all donors, and women in particular, as whole people who have a number of gifts to offer your organization, you gain so much more than funds. You gain their connections, expertise, creativity and willingness to dig in with you. It is at this point that the magic of women’s engagement and philanthropy begins.
Ask Yourself These Important Questions Today
Given the many resources women bring to the table:
- What ways are you inviting in all the resources that women have to offer?
- Are you authentic in asking for input when it is appropriate and sharing the impact of her support, whether it comes in the form of time, talent or treasure?
- Do you track the many resources she is providing?
- How do you intentionally acknowledge all that a woman may be doing for your organization, including but also beyond financial support?
The keys to growing women’s philanthropy lie in listening to women’s voices and respecting all that they have to offer. Women have powerful resources that can help further your mission, both in and outside of their purses.