Women’s Philanthropy: From Empathy to Abundance

Gender and Giving Sep 2, 2019

This four-part series amplifies research on women’s philanthropy through real life stories and consider what women donors can apply to their efforts today. Part Three. Read Parts One, Two, and Four.


Although Lindsey Chitwood grew up with the sense that her parents were philanthropic, it wasn’t until adulthood that she understood the true importance of giving back to her community.

Chitwood credits the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham with helping to make her a more empathetic person. Motivated by the belief that equity for women and people of color should be a top priority in our society, Chitwood gives more than she used to and feels a vested interest because she has become personally involved. She is an avid promoter of the Women’s Fund, inviting her friends and colleagues to learn and give with her.

“When you open your eyes to understand community needs, how can you not give?” Chitwood asks.

Chitwood’s drive to give back and to give more is affirmed in a leading-edge report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. All in for Women and Girls: How Women’s Fund and Foundation Donors Are Leading Through Philanthropy tells the story of what sets donors to women’s funds and foundations apart from other donors – who they are, what motivates their philanthropy, and why they stay so committed to the cause.According to the research, donors to women’s funds and foundations are more motivated than donors in general:

  • By a desire to give back to their community
  • By the belief their gift makes a difference
  • By their volunteer or board service

In addition, All in for Women and Girls found participating in a women’s fund or foundation affects charitable giving more broadly. Women’s fund and foundation donors give more dollars overall, give to more charitable organizations than donors in general and are more satisfied with their giving.

“I do something with the Women’s Fund – open an email or go to an event – and it just brings me back to where energy and passion needs to be placed,” said Judy Bishop of her experience with the Women’s Fund of Hawai’i. “It reminds me every day what matters in life. It makes me feel fulfilled.”

For Dianne Doherty of Springfield, Mass., being involved with the creation of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts helped her grow as a person and a philanthropist. Doherty says of her experience, “the theory of abundance was the best lesson I learned. When the women’s fund first started, I had many friends who could have given but didn’t. I felt sorry for them – and for us – but operating from a theory of desperation gets you nowhere. There is plenty.”

For her part, Chitwood is ensuring the next generation is embracing strong philanthropic values. Her three children – 10 year old Margot and 7 year old twins, Anderson and Mae – each receive an allowance for finishing chores. They distribute their earnings across three buckets: Give, save and spend.

How to Flex Your Empathy and Abundance Muscles

  • Deepen your understanding of community issues through data and stories. Listen to women, especially women who have been historically marginalized.
  • Every day for a week, ask one person to join you in making a gift to an organization you support. When you get a decline, bounce back quickly and ask the next person.
  • Write a thank you note on behalf of a cause you champion. Just a couple sentences about why their gift matters will make both you and the donor feel wonderful.