Girls Just Want to Do Good: Engaging Younger Women in Philanthropy

By Renee Herrell

“We have all individually and collectively experienced the magic that is possible when a bright group of women, of all ages and backgrounds, come together with a shared vision,” Linda Katz – co-founder of Women Give San Diego

A couple years ago, I realized a dream. I began learning how to be a philanthropist. Although I’ve given money and time over the years to causes that I’m passionate about, I wanted to do more. When I learned about the Women Give San Diego (WGSD), I realized that it would give me an opportunity to be part of a larger group of people who wanted to better the lives of women and girls.

A donor circle of the Women’s Foundation of California, WGSD engages local women of all ages in providing funds to foster long-term economic self-sufficiency and security of women and girls in San Diego. We pay particular attention to the needs of low-income women, women of color and elderly women.

One thing that makes Women Give San Diego so unique is its tiered membership prices. Members in their 20s are asked for a minimum gift of $250 a year; members in their 30’s contribute a minimum of $500 and founding members pay from $1000 – $25,000.

As a result, nearly 40 percent of WGSD members are under the age of 40.

While I was deeply drawn to the cause – supporting women and girls – I was also attracted by the opportunity to engage with great women philanthropists. The three founders of WGSD, Jan Tuttleman, Gayle Tauber and Linda Katz, are very well-known and highly respected in our community. They are amazing women who have been actively engaged in philanthropy for over three decades, with a particular focus on women and girls.

They believe that families and communities thrive when women and girls can be fully contributing members of the community. From the start, they intended that WGSD’s  membership be diverse through age, race, and social standing. The circle provides an unrivalled opportunity to learn from them, and to learn about their philanthropic journey.

In every way, they demonstrate their commitment to engaging and mentoring younger women. If we take on a project, they’re excited about it. We’re able to shape some of the work we do. When I asked Jan why she felt so strongly about engaging younger women, she said, “I feel that once younger women get involved, they are the ones to be the champion of this cause in the future. They will be the ones to carry forth the mission of our organization in the future and raise awareness in our community.”

As a former executive director and fundraiser, it’s also been invaluable to learn about what’s involved in good grantmaking and learn the philanthropist’s point of view. It’s been such a powerful experience to meet with potential grant partners and hear directly from them about their work. This year, I sat on the grantmaking committee and had an opportunity to be part of the decision making process in which we gave away $46,000. It was incredible to realize that my $500 was pooled with the investments of others to become $46,000 that can have a bigger impact.

It’s critical that we start engaging women who are in their 20’s and 30’s in philanthropy. Research shows that the charities we start giving to now are the ones that we will be supporting when we are in our 50’s and 60’s. Although we have a lot of challenges and expenses now – repaying school loan debt, buying our first homes, starting our own families or looking for work – down the road we will have more wealth. By engaging us now, organizations can build life-long donors. And then, when we’re in our 50’s and 60’s like Linda, Jan and Gayle, we will turn around and provide mentorship and guidance in philanthropy for the generations that are coming up.

In addition to being a member of Women Give San Diego, Renee Herrell, M.A., CFRE writes a popular blog on nonprofit topics: reneeherrell.wordpress.com

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