Thanks to pioneering efforts in 1992 by then UCLA fundraiser Dyan Sublett to learn and write about what motivated women donors to give to the university, we have a unique opportunity to compare women’s philanthropic behavior then and now and to connect the qualitative assessments to empirical research.
Have women’s motivations for giving changed over time? Do the practice of women’s philanthropy and the research about gender and philanthropy converge?
When Sublett, who became co-founder and director of the Women & Philanthropy program at UCLA, first began her research, she and her colleague Karen Stone organized and hosted six focus groups with 76 women in 1992, the contemporary women’s philanthropy movement was in its infancy.
Martha Taylor had started the first women’s philanthropy major gift initiative in higher education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1988. Sublett and Stone’s initial efforts led to the creation of the women’s philanthropy program at UCLA. The program, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, grew out of the focus groups and was designed by the women donors.
Sublett published the findings from the focus groups in a 1993 article in New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, one of the first articles to affirm that gender matters in philanthropy.
In some ways, the landscape for women’s philanthropy is much different today. The growth of women’s funds and giving circles has provided a variety of opportunities for women to engage in philanthropy as they choose. More women are stepping boldly into their philanthropy, making big gifts in public ways to encourage others to join with them.