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Kimberly Downes discusses recent research about women’s role and influence in philanthropy and the implications that has for engaging women as donors

Australian women are not philanthropists. At least according to my recent research. Australian women do not relate to the word ‘philanthropist’ or see their giving and volunteering as philanthropy. They go about their giving in a quiet and humble way and don’t necessarily like recognition. To them it’s just a natural thing to do — give back.

As fundraisers, do we have a responsibility to teach our donors and volunteers what it means to be a philanthropist? Without question, we do. 

Women who participated in the research overwhelmingly expressed that in order to be a philanthropist you had to be ultra-wealthy. They didn’t see the volunteering time, committee commitments and the donations they were making as philanthropy. They have a misguided notion that to be a philanthropist you have must make big gifts. Maybe because the big gifts are the only gifts that get publicity, so that’s all they hear about. Organisations should be celebrating everyday philanthropy more and using the word ‘philanthropy’.

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