By Marty Wiggins

Women’s Fund of Smith County

Would your life story include a passage on giving?  How would it read?  The Women’s Fund of Smith County encourages you to try this exercise:  Write your own story as a philanthropist (simply someone who gives back to their community and world) in a short paragraph.  It doesn’t matter if you have made many charitable gifts over the years, or just a few.  If you haven’t given much, you can use your imagination. 

In writing this paragraph, think of what really matters to you.  How might you best contribute?  What charitable giving brings you the most satisfaction?  Now put your paragraph away.  A few days later, read it out loud to consider to your words again.  Does it capture your individual spirit?  How would you change the story to better match who you are and the role you might wish to be as a donor?

If you do this simple exercise, be prepared to be inspired.  You may be compelled to make your giving “dream” real, and you may be surprised where this journey takes you.

A first step might be to attend the Women’s Philanthropy Summit, set for Thursday, Sept. 19, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Rose Heights Community Life Center.  In the spirit of collaboration, the event is hosted by the Women’s Fund of Smith County, the East Texas Communities Foundation and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, East Texas chapter.  Keynote speaker Kathryn Miree will address “Every Woman Can Change the World” and “The 7 Habit of Highly Effective (and Charitable) Women.”

Because communication, collaboration and community are all important to women’s giving, this landmark summit will also provide breakout sessions and a closing Q&A forum to bring forward ideas and dialogue.  The intended result:  East Texas women will be part of a giving network.  As studies confirm, they thus will be more loyal to philanthropic causes, more educated and informed about philanthropic options and more trusting of nonprofit organizations.

The analysis of women’s giving needs to start with “why” – “Why does women’s philanthropy matter?”  This question was recently explored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors as part of its Philanthropy Roadmap series.  The “Women and Giving” report cited three primary reasons, beginning with the fact that women control more of the financial pie than ever before.  As a whole, women now direct more than half of private wealth in the U.S.  The IRS reports that 43 percent of the nation’s top wealth holders are women, with top wealth holders defined as individuals with assets of $1.5 million or more. 

Secondly, women’s role in philanthropy is important since the percentage of women maintaining wealth is only going to rise.  Many women will inherit twice – first from their parents and then from their spouse.  Forbes has estimated that women will inherit 70 percent of the $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth that is expected to change hands over the next 40 years.

Thirdly, research is proving that differences in giving between men and women are real.  A 2010 survey showed that female-headed households were more not only more like to make charitable gifts, but tended to give nearly twice as much.  A separate survey revealed that women often view charitable giving as a collaborative effort.  Women expect a deeper level of communication with the nonprofits they support and place greater importance than do men on the impact of their gifts.

Any woman interested in advancing her philanthropic journey can benefit from the Donor Checklist included in the “Women and Giving” report.  It begins with “find a personal focus.”  Take the time to understand the areas of giving that will be most rewarding to you based on your intuition, family history, personal experience and fact finding.  Next, “balance personal motivations with family and wider commitments.”  Since many women are natural connectors, they often share a sense of the broader concerns of family and community, and therefore enjoy giving together.

“Learn from others” includes networking with a growing community of women donors.  This interaction can increase your impact as you also gain friends.  In addition, networking with the nonprofits you support and the people they serve will help focus your future giving.  Then, “talk to your children early about money and giving.”  Communication about money matters helps children understand family values, as you foster their own involvement in giving decisions, now and for a lifetime.

The Women’s Philanthropy Summit on Sept. 19 will address many of these topics, as women join together to reach new heights in giving, leadership, service and impact.  We cordially invite you to attend, as we each move forward in both a shared and highly personal journey of informed, inspired philanthropy.

The Women’s Fund of Smith County is a giving circle of more than 300 women, who collectively provide high-impact grants that benefit women and children.  For information/registration regarding the Women’s Philanthropy Summit, visit   Marty Wiggins is a Past Board Chair of the Women’s Fund and professionally provides fundraising counsel to charitable organizations.