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Give Like You Mean It – Strategy, Not a Big Heart, Will Bring About the Change You Want

Joanna Krotz

Joanna Krotz wants women to stop throwing like girls—giving away money and time without being strategic and goal-oriented. Now that women have more power, money and influence, she says, it’s time for them to step up to the plate and be real philanthropists rather than charitable givers, because it is only true philanthropy that brings about social change.
Women, as a whole, have long been leaders in charitable giving. Citing research from the University of Indiana, Krotz—an author and journalist who covers women, wealth, giving and business—says that women give a greater percentage of their income than men, volunteer more time than men and give to education and social causes more than men.

However, their giving is often not as effective as it could be because they have not yet learned how to strategically direct their charitable instincts. “Charity is emotionally and impulsively driven: It’s collecting food for the shelter down the street. But philanthropy involves a plan,” she says. “It’s a learned behavior. It always starts with a heart palpitation, but it goes above and beyond that—it is goal-oriented and cost-effective, much like a business plan.” Women are increasingly beginning to embrace this concept.

Overcoming a gender tendency to deflect credit, as women have begun to do in the workplace, will be another step in the right direction, Krotz says. Men tend to talk about their accomplishments; they tend to be monument builders when it comes to philanthropy, to expect something in return for what they give, while women are used to downplaying their contributions. “It doesn’t help that our society values contributions of time much less than contributions of dollars,” she laments.

The result is that the billions of dollars in volunteer time women pour into educational, professional and community organizations and churches are not often acknowledged. What’s more, less exposure means there are fewer role models for other women to follow. “Two things need to happen,” Krotz believes. “Society needs to begin valuing women’s contributions, and we have to stop being so modest.”

The good news is that many more women are starting to run with the ball. Cultural changes—including women controlling more wealth, more people earning money rather than inheriting it, and an increasing desire to give while living (as opposed to making a bequest upon death)—are fueling a shift in philanthropic trends that favors women. Already, 43 percent of the country’s biggest wealth holders are women, according to a 2008 IRS survey, and they, like most younger philanthropists, prefer to be hands on, both in managing their money and in working for a cause.

She is hopeful that over time, more women will be recognized in the pantheon of great philanthropists alongside Dell, Buffet, Soros and Gates.

In the June 2009 issue of Town & Country magazine, Krotz celebrates three women who have evolved into philanthropists who have a real impact: Dina Habib Powell, leader of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative; Jennifer Buffet, executive director of a philanthropy steering $1 billion to causes, many related to girls and women, throughout the world; and Kayrita Anderson, who, through the Harold and Kayrita Anderson Family Foundation, seeks to stamp out teenage prostitution in Georgia.

But even if you’re not wealthy or lucky enough to be the steward of a $25 million philanthropic organization, there are myriad ways to begin to turn your charitable intentions into a philanthropic strategy. Krotz expands on a few:

  • Build a management career in the non-profit sector. This doesn’t always mean taking a pay cut—Krotz reminds us that non-profits don’t necessarily pay poorly. Pursue opportunities and career progression just like you would in the corporate sector.
  • Work for corporations that have healthy social responsibility programs or cause marketing activities. Krotz says a new fourth sector of the economy is beginning to take hold—the hybrid for-profit/non-profit enterprise, and this is an area ripe for an infusion of talent and creativity.
  • Join the board of an organization whose cause you most want to support. A board appointment brings with it a voice in the organization’s direction and a chance to have a more meaningful impact on its work. And with the economy in turmoil, Krotz says, there’s less of an expectation that your board appointment be accompanied by a major donation.
  • Establish an online platform that gives exposure to your cause and draws others to participate. With the accessibility and global reach of today’s technology, anything is possible—from a forum for action on local problems to Lisa Ling’s efforts on CNN to raise awareness of major global issues.
  • Invest in a social venture investment fund. Social venture investment funds are run like any venture capital fund, but the difference is that the funds usually go to revitalizing a community rather than to financing a business and they have lower rates of return. Examples are Boston Community Capital and the Abyssinian Development Corporation.
  • Invest in a donor-advised fund, an individual philanthropic fund managed by a community foundation or financial services firm. You can set up one of these with as little as $5,000 and more or less designate the money to go wherever you want: a scholarship fund, to cure a disease, climate change work, you name it.

“It’s not easy to give away money—to do it right and make it work,” Krotz says. But there is a huge opportunity for women to become the next great philanthropists.

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