Study: Older women more generous in charity donations

— -- INDIANAPOLIS -- Baby boomer and older women generally earn less, have less money in retirement and are expected to live longer than men.

Even so, they are much more likely to donate to charity and to give more generously than men, says a new Indiana University report on philanthropy.

Boomer and older women give 89% more of their total income to charity than their male counterparts when education, income, race, number of children and other factors affecting giving are equal, according to the Women Give 2012 report from the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Women with more financial resources are even more generous than men with similar resources.

These women in the top 25% of "permanent" income — including salaries of $61,000 and higher and investments — give over 1.5 times more to charity than boomer and older men.

"We did find that women are more generous," said Debra J. Mesch, institute director. "We're not saying that women are better or men are worse, but that (charities) need to think about the differences in giving patterns and behavior of men and women."

The study surveyed 1,109 male and female single-headed households in 2003, 2005 and 2007. They were born in 1964 or earlier and were either never married, divorced or widows or widowers. The study examines eight different giving levels from nothing to 3% or more. It also takes into account women's longer life expectancy when figuring their permanent income levels.

So why are boomer and older women more willing to part with their money for good causes? Several factors are in play.

"It has to do with women being socialized to be the caregivers of their families and communities," Mesch said.

Women and men have different motivations for giving. In previous institute studies, she said women score much higher on traits such as empathy and caring, which affect giving to charity.

"Their gift is the beginning of a deeper relationship with a non-profit," said Angela White, senior consultant and CEO of Johnson Gross Nickle and Associates, a local non-profit consulting firm. "Their male counterparts think of it as a financial transaction."

She said women are thinking, "What kind of change can I make in the world? How can I make an impact? That's more of a relationship with the non-profit."

For Marissa Manlove of Indianapolis, giving has been part of her upbringing and also reflects societal concerns she has developed as an adult. At age 59, she is a boomer. But she's also married and engaged in charitable giving with her husband, Kim.

"Helping out and giving back was part of how I was raised," she said. "Women in my generation were among the first to come into their own in the workforce. They have more of the resources and control of those resources to make those decisions."

Personal family experiences and her career in the not-for-profit arena have driven her giving. She used to work at Noble of Indiana, a non-profit group providing services for people with disabilities. Her twin brothers have developmental disabilities her family was able to attend t, but that helped her realize some families couldn't afford to do that.

Her 16-year-old son died as a result of substance abuse. So she and her husband formed a small foundation called The 24 Group with other families whose children were affected by substance abuse. They reach out to families struggling with addiction and give grants providers that offer support.

Manlove, now president of the Indiana Grant Makers Alliance, a membership association that provides services and lobbying for foundations, has donated to the United Way for 35 years and also donates to the Women's Fund of Central Indiana. The non-profit has distributed more than $4.1 million to 93 women- and girl-serving organizations since 1999.

The Women's Fund is one example of a proliferation of women's networks involved in charitable giving. The women's philanthropic movement has been growing since the early 1990's.

"Women are getting together as a network," said Mesch. "They interact with each other and that raises the giving level."

Women are simply considered better potential donors, too.

"We're not ignoring them as a donor population," said White, who is a consultant to the Women's Fund. "In the past, they (charitable groups) would think about seeing the guy in the corporate office. They would often ignore the spouse, the teacher and other female potential donors."

"Now, we're more aware of women with the potential to give and we're asking them more often."