Can you tell us a bit about the Women Philanthropy Institute’s (WPI) latest report, COVID-19, Generosity, and Gender: How Giving Changed During the Early Months of a Global Pandemic?

The pandemic has upended all aspects of our lives, philanthropy included. WPI wanted to better understand how people gave in response to the crisis, how their overall giving changed, and whether there were any gender differences. Our data looks specifically at the early months of the pandemic, and the findings — in general — suggest that people have really stepped up to support their communities. We found that the majority (56.1%) engaged in some kind of charitable activity, and nearly half — particularly younger generations — gave indirectly, for example, ordering take-out to support a local restaurant or continuing to pay their hairstylist without receiving any services. People are getting creative with their philanthropy, and that’s something we’ve also captured in our videos inspired by Women Give 2019 (Who is a philanthropist?) and Women Give 2020 (I Tech For Good). 

What did the report find regarding gender? 

The report suggests that women, in particular, may be feeling the effects of the pandemic on their giving. Women were more likely than men to report decreasing their giving in response to specific elements of the crisis, including uncertainty about economic impacts and reduced interactions with the community. While women typically give more than men, it appears that certain aspects of this crisis — which disproportionately affect women economically and disrupt the ability to network and connect — may be putting a strain on their giving. 

Your research has previously shown that community motivates women to give. How can women stay connected through philanthropy, despite our socially distant reality? 

Women love to give together; in fact, about 70% of giving circles are majority-women. Social distancing makes this challenging, but there are plenty of ways for donors to stay connected virtually. Giving circles hosted through Zoom are an option, as are virtual soirees and fundraising events that allow women to bring their communities together around a cause. You can also make a point to talk about giving as part of family dinner conversations, or on the phone when catching up with friends, or in social media posts. Talk about a new organization you found or ask a friend to tell you more about a cause she supports. Creating space to talk about giving can help all of us feel more connected to our philanthropy. 

For women and families that aren’t able to give as much as usual, how can they ensure their dollars are going far or find other ways to make an impact? 

It’s always important to be intentional and strategic about your giving, whether there’s a crisis or not. But especially in times like these, having a clear map of your giving priorities, values, and plan can help ensure that you’re making as big an impact as possible with your donations. This summer, I spoke at an event with The Riveter about how to create a giving plan during turbulent times (you can watch the video here). We talked about how having a plan helps you decide what to say “yes” and “no” to, since there are so many needs and asks out right now. Giving money isn’t the only way to be philanthropic. Connect with your neighborhood social media groups, mutual aid organizations, and food pantries to see if there are opportunities to help your community in non-monetary ways, for example by dropping off groceries, donating food, or making wellness calls.