Boomer women bigger donors, study says

Single women who are Baby Boomers and older give more to charity, and are more likely to give, than single men the same age when education, income and other factors are equal, a new study says.

At all income levels, and no matter what share of permanent income they give, Boomer and older women give 89 percent more to charity than their male counterparts, says Women Give 2012, a study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Among  women in the top 25 percent of permanent income who give at the highest level, or 3 percent or more of income, Boomer and older women give 156 percent more than men the same circumstances.

The U.S. is home to 76 million Boomers, or Americans born from 1946 through 1964, a group that represents the biggest generation in the country.

Boomers hold over 90 percent of net worth in the U.S. and account for 78 percent of all financial assets.

Based on 2007 projections, women accounted for 51 percent of Boomers in the U.S., a share expected to grow to 54 percent by 2030.

And women age 50 and older control net worth of $19 trillion and own over 75 percent of financial wealth in the U.S., it says, while women age 50 to 70, or roughly the age of Boomers, hold 47.2 percent of the gross assets of the top female wealth holders in the U.S.

“Boomers and people of older generations are more likely to give and give more on average than younger generations,” the study says,

And Boomer women, it says, are “transforming philanthropy through innovative new charitable organizations and ways to engage in charitable activity.”

The number of nonprofit women’s funds, often public foundations, which are governed mainly by women and raise money from public sources to support programs for women and girls, now totals 165 in 27 countries on six continents, the study says.

A recent study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute that included women of all ages found that, generally, households headed by single females are more likely to give, and to give more, than households headed by single males, when factors that affect philanthropic behavior are equal.

That study and the new study looked only at households headed by single females and single males to explain gender differences.

Married couples tend to pool income and decide together about charitable giving, it says, so studying married couples does not allow for testing gender differences in giving.

The new study also says Boomer and older women are more likely than men to be concerned about their economic future and funds available for retirement as they age.

Women generally have lower incomes and spend less time in the work force than men, it says.

In particular, it says, women as they age are affected more adversely than men by aversion to risk in making financial decisions, by longer life expectancy, by being single as they age, and by having less money in retirement.

So women tend to set aside more money as “precautionary savings,” limiting any spending, including charitable giving, the study says.

And more conservative investment by women of accumulated wealth, it says, likely will yield a lower level of permanent income.

Greater aversion to risk suggests that the tendency to spend out of a “certain flow of income and stock of wealth” will be lower among women than men.

“Women, in general, earn less and have less money in retirement than men, and then have a greater life expectancy,” Debra J. Mesch, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, says in a statement.

“Although some may have concerns about their financial security,” she says, “our study suggests that Boomer and older women share their  resources with others more generously than their male peers.”

Previous research by the Institute also found that strong networks among women “may keep them more connected to both the needs of others and to opportunities to give,” Mesch says.

“The giving habits of Boomer and older women are a powerful reminder about the importance of gender in philanthropy,” she says. ‘These insights help nonprofits better understand their female donors and remind fundraisers of the importance and value of seeking gender balance in their fundraising strategies.”

— Todd Cohen

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