Here's a myth for you: men donate more money to charity than women. Perhaps this myth stays alive because most people don't think of women as high-activity donors. But that's not true. Certainly women give of their time and skills to help worthy causes, but now they are bringing money too.
Today women are having a major impact as donors, as managers of major foundations, and as beneficiaries of a growing crop of women's foundations. Forbes magazine reported earlier this year that the top four philanthropists in India are all women. In the United States, the latest statistics show that there are more women controlling more wealth in the U.S. than ever before. (Of those in the wealthiest tier of the country -- defined by the I.R.S. as individuals with assets of at least $1.5 million -- 43 percent are women.) Furthermore, women are reported to control 83 percent of household spending and more than 50 percent of family wealth. The reality is that women, strengthened by increasing economic power and education, are the rising wave of philanthropists.
As I mentioned, it's actually a myth that men give more to charity than women. A Barclay's Wealth study released in July 2009 showed that women in the U.S. give to charity, on average, nearly twice as much as men. But the fact is that philanthropy today is not just about donations or volunteer time, it's about large-scale strategy.
Take Acumen Fund for instance. Founded by Jacqueline Novogratz in 2001, Acumen Fund invests only in companies that are creating solutions to enable the poor to help themselves. In other words, to help people become self-sufficient -- rather than giving handouts. That's why, she says, at Acumen "we focus on the basics: health care, water, housing." Ultimately, the goal of the Fund is to overturn the way that we look at and solve poverty.
Another strategy being implemented to solve poverty is to focus on creating economic opportunities specifically for women and girls. We have been hearing this everywhere from the United Nations to Nicholas Kristof, author of Half the Sky and a writer for The New York Times: If you empower women and girls, you create a better life for everyone. In other words, if a woman has a roof over her head, food to eat, clean water, and affordable health care, then so do her children. Christine Grumm, president and C.E.O. of the Women's Funding Network, points out that seventy percent of people living in poverty around the world are women and children. "In the larger picture, it's not just about women, but entire communities. Women are the conduits through which change is made," she says.
Today women are building alliances, creating partnerships, and leveraging financial capital to achieve sustained economic security and growth for women and girls. Organizations like Women's Funding Network and Global Fund for Women are great examples of this.
As women are increasingly putting their wealth to work for the common good, they are fueling positive change in communities around the world. While the relationship between women and philanthropy has always been a strong one in terms of time, care, and passion, it is now moving to the next level -- financial clout.
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