A Woman’s Nonprofit Worth

A Woman’s Nonprofit Worth

While women comprise a large percentage of the workforce and are having a great impact on charities through donations and participation, there is still a surprising gender gap when it comes to leadership positions and giving potential in nonprofits. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we thought it would be interesting to take a step back to look at the larger picture of how women are impacting both the present and the future of nonprofit fundraising, development, and leadership.

In a recent Bayer Center study, women comprised 56% of the leadership positions at nonprofits and 76% of the total nonprofit workforce in the state of Pennsylvania. But other studies don’t have such a rosy outlook. The Benchmarking Women’s Leadership study released last year said that while nonprofits have a fairly high percentage of women among their staffs—the study says it’s about 75 percent at nonprofits with budgets in excess of $25 million—women only possess 21 percent of leadership roles. Some subsectors of nonprofits, such as social entrepreneurship, had more female leaders. When looking at smaller nonprofits, there were more female leaders, but they made substantially less than their male counterparts.

Compare those percentages to the 14% of women that have leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies. In business management, women account for about a third of M.B.A. classes, but only 2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 6 percent of top earners, 8 percent of top leadership positions, and 16 percent of board directors and corporate officers. So not only are women lagging behind their male counterparts in leadership positions at major nonprofits, they are also absent from the earning potential and decision making powers that come from executive roles at corporations.

Due in large part to access to wealth, men are more likely to give more over the span of their lifetimes than women. But when it comes to donors, in terms of who is likely to give more, women take the lead. In a 2002 study at Boston College, “after controlling for differences in age, educational attainment, and research methodologies, single females were 14 percent more likely to donate than were single men” and, “after controlling for differences in income, education, and methodologies, single females gave $330 more than single men did.” This was also found to be true of bequests, where 60% of the bequests studied were made by women, compared to only 40% from men.

From an online fundraising standpoint, “more women donate than men, but men give larger donations. 64% of all donations are given by women, as opposed to 36% of donations by men. However, the average event donation by a woman is $44.41, and the average event donation by a man is $59.75.” All of this adds up to an important gender gap – while women are active in nonprofits, they still lag behind men in terms of total impact.

Nonprofits are oftentimes considered a “woman’s world.” But with a staggering lack of advancement in leadership positions, overall less access to wealth and giving than their male counterparts, and a smaller financial impact, women, both mother’s and non-mother’s alike, aren’t having as much of a role in the future of nonprofits as one might colloquially think. We can’t wait to work towards changing that.


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