In recent years, anecdotal evidence indicates that more women are leveraging all of their resources to effect the change they wish to see in the world. This has certainly been true in the philanthropy sector. Last year, noted philanthropist Agnes Gund demonstrated the power and impact of leveraging her resources by using $100 million of the proceeds from the sale of her painting, Roy Lichtenstein’s The Masterpiece, to seed the Art for Justice Fund dedicated to criminal justice reform.

In politics, 2018 has been called the Year of the Woman. Back in March, Politico reported that 60 percent more women had declared plans to run for the House and Senate as compared to the 2016 election. As of Oct. 4, 278 women are running for Senate, House, and Governor positions according to analysis by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

How women are leveraging their resources at the intersection of philanthropy and politics is the subject of a new report released today by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Charitable Giving Around the 2016 Election: Does Gender Matter? looks specifically at charitable behavior before and after the 2016 election through the gender lens. While the popular press covered incidences of “rage giving” with headlines such as “It’s unprecedented in our history” in The Washington Post and “The Post-Election Surge in Donations” in The Atlantic, scant attention was paid to the role of gender in that giving. It turns out: gender mattered!

The study used daily transaction data from a national online donation platform and tested whether charitable giving patterns changed in the week before and after the 2016 election. It looked only at the period around the 2016 election, compared to similar periods in 2015 and 2017. For more details about the methodology, please see that section in the report (page 16).

The study found that the 2016 election did indeed trigger charitable donations, but only for certain causes and overwhelmingly from female donors.

Key findings include:

  • Overall charitable giving was lower immediately following the 2016 election than would be expected in years without a national election.
  • Lower charitable giving after the 2016 election was concentrated among men; women’s giving increased compared to men’s giving post-election.
  • Charitable giving after the 2016 election increased significantly for progressive 501(c)3s with relevance to key election issues. (Charitable organizations in the data were classified according to perceived political leaning as well as relevance to issues raised during the 2016 election cycle. Because this is the first study of its kind, it is not known whether a similar effect would be seen among relevant conservative charitable organizations in a year with different election results.)
  • The increase in charitable giving to relevant progressive charities after the 2016 election was driven primarily by women donors. In the week before the election, women gave more than men to these types of organizations; this giving accelerated in the week after the election as the difference between women and men’s giving increased six-fold.

This study provides evidence that women are increasingly connecting their values and leveraging their philanthropic resources as a means of civic and political engagement. It affirms earlier research that shows that women are more likely than men to indicate that issues and causes drive their giving. Women are also more likely to cite their political or philosophical beliefs as a motivation for their charitable giving.

Conversation starters:

To what extent do your political and philosophical beliefs motivate your giving?

Did your charitable giving change as a result of the 2016 election?

In what ways do you leverage your resources to effect the change you wish to see in the world?

Charitable Giving Around The Election

Learn more about giving around the election from the Women's Philanthropy Institute.