Women are changing the world of philanthropic giving and my dear friend and colleague, Evelyn Lauder, led the way. Almost 20 years ago, Evelyn founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation® to increase public awareness about breast cancer and to find a cure and prevention in our lifetime. Evelyn understood that philanthropy is about more than raising money. It is also about building a network of support for a cause, like women's health, and ultimately making a meaningful difference in people's lives.
For more than a decade, I have served as the president of BCRF. It was a privilege to stand by Evelyn's side and help realize her mission to save the lives of our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. Although my dearest friend Evelyn passed away this past November, her lifelong mission and the mission of BCRF will be tenaciously preserved.
Evelyn co-created the pink ribbon as the universal symbol of the fight against breast cancer after she recognized the success of what the red ribbon was able to accomplish for the AIDS movement. She wanted to create her own movement to bring awareness and understanding to a disease that women were afraid to talk about. Her pink ribbon changed the world and provided women with the power and knowledge to support finding a cure.
Evelyn understood that women are powerful and give in more ways than writing a check, and she lived by example. We at BCRF see the many ways in which women give every single day. Women volunteer their time and share their resources to make a difference. And women know that there is power in numbers; they recruit their friends to fight the fight alongside them.
A recent survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch shows the profound impact of women in society, not only because of their growing financial clout but also because of the contributions they are making through philanthropic giving. The 2011 Bank of America Merrill Lynch study of "High Net Worth Women's Philanthropy" found that women are either the sole decision maker or an equal partner in decisions about charitable giving. Beyond assigning dollars, women approach philanthropy differently than men in that they seek long-lasting layers of meaning and a deep personal connection with the organizations and causes that they support. Eight in ten women in this survey said that having a personal connection with a nonprofit is an important factor in their decision to support its mission, and even more women said that they become personally involved by volunteering time and talent to organizations about which they care.
This insight is valuable to BCRF, an organization founded by a remarkable woman for a cause that has affected, or will, all our lives in one way or another. But the underlying message is one that all non-profit organizations should take note of, that through the power of philanthropy, women are in the prime position to make real and lasting change in the world.
For BCRF, spring is always a good time to measure our progress and impact. For the past 14 years, each spring the Foundation hosts our most significant fundraising event, the Hot Pink Party. This year's Hot Pink Party will be unlike any before. On April 30th at New York City's Waldorf Astoria, we will celebrate "Evelyn's Dream" and pay tribute to our champion, cherished leader, and shining light. Evelyn Lauder lived her life serving as an example to all women about the potential power each of us has within to make a difference. I call on all of you who read this post to make a commitment to dedicate yourself to whatever it is that is important to you. Give your time, your energy, your friendships and your dollars to making a difference.