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Wonder Women and Generosity!


Wonder Woman is the top grossing movie this past weekend. Everyone who has seen it has left saying they want to see it again. Why? Maybe because the movie shows a strong female superhero who is able to take on a whole lot of evil. She can do it all!

It is a perfect time in our history for a movie with a strong heroine to be in theaters - women are fierce and we are fired up. We came together and marched. We are signing up for leadership roles. We are running for office in record numbers. Women have a lot to say and we want to be heard.


This was made very clear when I attended the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) Symposium hosted by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University this spring. I attended the symposium to learn more about gender differences so that UC Davis could create a Women in Philanthropy program. We want to get more women involved in our future – both as donors and, more importantly, as leaders.


The WPI helps to better understand the role of women as leaders today and how to leverage their strength. The WPI has been studying gender differences since the early 90’s with grants from many donors including the most recent study funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2016). https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/doc/institutes/womengive16-infographic2.pdf


Consistently this research has shown that women and men give differently.

  • Women baby-boomers and older gave 89% more to charity than men their age.

  • Women in the top 25% of permanent income give 156% more than men in that same category.

  • Women give more than their male peers at virtually all income levels, even though women in general earn less and have less money in retirement than men, and have a greater life expectancy.

  • Women tend to be more altruistic and empathetic than men, partly because of the way men and women are socialized.

  • For men, money may represent power, achievement, or prestige, while women tend to view money in terms of personal security, freedom, and a way to achieve goals.

What’s more, a 2013 U.S. Trust survey on women and wealth found that “women are nearly twice as likely as men to say that giving to charity is the most satisfying aspect of having wealth.”


We harnessed all of this amazing research and hosted two visioning sessions with UC Davis women philanthropists to begin a dialogue about gender differences in giving. We shared data with them and they were not surprised. They shared stories about when they made their first gift and how they make philanthropic decisions. They told us about how they teach their own children to give back. They told us that big goals mean nothing to them, but knowing that their gift made a difference was their motivation for giving. They were excited that UC Davis was interested in their feedback and want them involved in our future.


Today 65% of all college graduates are women. We cannot continue to fundraise and steward all donors the same way. If we are to be successful then we need to think differently. We need to understand what motivates our donors to give, to embrace their differences, and we need women in leadership roles. We need more Wonder Women involved in our organizations!


Thank you to Angie Joens for this great blog post- she is indeed a Wonder Woman!

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