Wisdom Wednesdays: Women Give 2014  Report

by Jeanie Lovell, CFRE

In mid-November, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) — part of Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy — released the fifth report in a series of signature research that focuses on gender differences in giving to charitable organizations.  Women Give 2014 shares exciting new research on women, religion and giving.  This is the first study of its kind to examine the intersection of religiosity, gender and age in a single analysis.  Some findings are surprising and may have potential impact on all ALDE members and the organizations we serve.

Lovell-Jeanie-webThough the research explores a complex topic, WPI does an excellent job of breaking down the data into salient points.  I won’t go into the full details of the research, but will offer a few highlights to pique your interest.  (It really is fascinating, and I encourage you to read the full report!)

Here’s a brief snapshot of how the research was structured.  The study focuses on two age categories: 44 and younger, and 45 and older.  The question of religiosity is sorted into three categories:  people who frequently attend religious services; people who infrequently attend religious services and people who aren’t affiliated with a religious tradition (a group labeled the “Nones”).  As for giving, this study focuses on two groups of charitable organizations:  religiously identified and not-religiously identified (NRIOs).  It purposely does not focus on giving to congregations.

According to the report, “The influence of religiosity on giving is frequently used to argue that those who are more deeply engaged in religion are more likely to give and give more to charitable organizations.”  This is the standard religiosity-giving story.

Based on the findings of Women Give 2014, while the older demographic confirms the standard religiosity-giving story (where those affiliated with religion — regardless of how frequently they attend — give more than those who are unaffiliated with religion), a shift emerges among younger women.  Notably, the younger “Nones” gave two times larger amounts than women who have a religious affiliation but don’t attend services regularly.

For those among us who may have been concerned that declining church attendance would reflect less generosity in the larger community, this study seems to dispute that concern.  (While the larger worries about the overall decline in participation in organized religion remain, that’s another topic for another blogger.)  The good news is that charitable giving remains strong — even among those who aren’t religiously affiliated.

“This study suggests that the trend of declining affiliation does not foreshadow a decline in giving to charitable organizations.  It suggests, instead, the need for nonprofits, both religiously identified and NRIOs, to create different relationships with, and build different networks among, constituents by gender and age to assure that resources continue to be available to meet society’s pressing challenges.” (p. 4)

This is just one finding.  (Read the full report to learn more.)  Research can be a great catalyst for larger discussion—Agree?  Disagree?  Question?  Let’s take full advantage of the excellent research being conducted in our professional field to strengthen our knowledge and our charitable organizations.

(Note:  Other reports in WPI’s Women Give Research Series are available at www.philanthropy.iupui.edu/womengive.)

Jeanie Lovell, CFRE, is Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations and Campaign Co-Director at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.  She also serves as Program Director for Women, Faith, and Finance, Luther’s collaborative women’s philanthropy program.  Jeanie recently received the Outstanding Professional Fundraiser Award from the AFP Upper Mississippi Valley Chapter and is Secretary of the ALDE Iowa Chapter.  

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