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SOUTHERN NATURE – Are Women’s Charitable Contributions Meeting The Needs?

Submitted by on Tuesday, 20 July 2010No Comment

I’m happy to feature an article today from my sister, Janet Soto. Janet works for The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston and coordinates their extensive volunteer program. The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston, is a charitable organization that partners with corporations and volunteers to teach financial skills to women and children. It has recently celebrated it’s 20th anniversary and has just published a study on the charitable giving patterns of women in the Houston area.  

Janet’s article reports some of the findings regarding the charitable giving patterns of Houston women and shines a light on the charitable giving power and choices of southern women – what we give, and what we would give differently if we could, and how we make a difference.  Thanks, Janet, for sharing this very important and eye-opening study with our Southern Beauty readers!

Are Women’s Charitable Contributions Meeting The Needs?

by Janet Soto

In celebration of its 20th anniversary this spring, The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston released a study on the Charitable Giving Patterns of Houston Women. The Women’s Resource was aware of the growing role of women in philanthropy and wanted to better understand Houston women donor’s interests, motivation for giving, and the extent of their support for organizations that serve women and girls. This is the first study of its kind in Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S.

Why now?

As a leading organization for women and girls, The Women’s Resource could have celebrated its anniversary this year by reveling in their accomplishments of teaching free personal finance classes to over 13,000 Houstonians; publishing 13 research reports on issues significant to women, girls, and families; and awarding more than $85,000 in grants. But, The Women’s Resource chose to ask critical questions instead so they could find out what women are doing and why they are doing it. Charitable giving tends to be a private and personal subject for women, but it is time for us to start talking if we want to make a bigger difference.

Did you know that it is estimated that women control over 60% of the wealth in the United States today? A growing number of women also are now in charge of the financial decision-making for their families (Alliance Life Insurance Company of North America). It makes sense that an increasing number of women are “holding the purse strings,” since we are already the ones who carry the purse anyway. And in other households, women often still have great or equal influence on financial matters, especially giving.

So what are we giving to? And why? The Women’s Resource study found some surprising things from over 1,800 Houston women who responded to the survey.

Women in the survey gave to a wide range of causes, but an underlying theme is the personal nature of their giving. The majority of women donors supported social service and religious organizations. Nearly half of the women supported educational issues – understood to include traditional education institutions as well as organizations that provide financial education and job training – and one third supported health services and research. 

Regardless of the causes women donors contributed to, the vast majority were motivated to give for similar reasons: out of a personal belief in a cause, a compassion for those in need, and a desire to contribute to their community. Nearly 50% of women donors were motivated to give to issues that affected their lives or the lives of people close to them. Similarly, the most common source of information about a charitable organization was that the donor, or someone close to them, being affected by the organization.

Does this sound like you or the women you know?

Although only 19% of donations by women donors went to causes and organizations that specifically benefit women and girls, 89% of women donors said they would give more to organizations that serve women and girls if they could. The study also revealed a contrast between what Houston women donors are giving to, what the census and other data reveal as needs, and the priorities of nonprofit service providers.

How can we bridge this gap?

Kim Fontenot, Board President, said, “the research confirms that our mission is still as relevant as it was two decades ago, but it also shows that The Women’s Resource, Houston women donors and nonprofit service providers need to talk and become more strategic.” 

Clearly, women donors in Houston care deeply about issues that affect them, their family, and their community, and are willing to give substantial time, money, and goods to help women and girls lead full and healthy lives. As women emerge as a critical force in philanthropy, perhaps a more powerful opportunity to address the needs of women and girls in Houston, across the South, and across the country is to bring women donors together to share and prioritize issues of importance. Bringing together the voices and experiences of women, and engaging their abilities as solution-builders and leaders, can harness the power of women’s giving to overcome the most critical challenges that women and girls face.

This study is just a start. What are the women in your community giving to? What are the needs in your community? Are we having as much impact on meeting needs and solving problems as we want? 

To order a copy of the report “Charitable Giving Patterns of Houston Women” or to learn more about The Women’s Resource, visit .

For more from Naomi Walking, check out Naomi’s website, or follow Naomi on twitter @naomiwalking.



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