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Nonprofit Workshop: Don’t Underestimate Spending Power of Women

How Women Give was presented by Natalie Orfalea Foundation and Leading From Within

Local nonprofits could be leaving money on the table when it comes to reaching female donors. In fact, what some consider best practices in development circles may actually discourage women from giving.

This was the topic explored at How Women Give: Viewing Development Through a Gender Lens, sponsored by the Natalie Orfalea Foundation in partnership with Leading From Within (LFW).

The May 6 workshop reached capacity with 59 participants representing executive directors, development directors and board members from 26 nonprofit organizations.

“Nearly half of the nation’s top wealth holders are women and they influence or make over 75 percent of household philanthropic decisions,” said Kathleen Loehr, who led the workshop.

Loehr is a senior consultant at the Aspen Leadership Group and author of Gender Matters: A Practical Approach to Grow Women’s Philanthropy.

She has worked in the sector for 30 years, combining nonprofit expertise, fundraising, coaching and strategy to help individuals and groups navigate change.

The interactive workshop was designed to help participants become more aware of gender differences in charitable giving behavior and learn how to grow support from female philanthropists.

“Implicit bias exists in every person and therefore every organization’s lens of perception,” said Natalie Orfalea.

“The philanthropic sector is missing out on the greater opportunity of ideas, connections and financial resources by not shifting the gender lens in their communication, and finding out what female donors are deeply interested in, connected to … and ready to invest in,” she said.

Loehr talked about the importance of framing discussions with donors around their questions, eliciting their input and finding out what they are interested in, rather than relying on a standard presentation. The tactic invites donors in and engages them with the organization, she said.

“The more leaders are engaged, and the more integrated the approach is, the more support you will raise,“ she said.

“The Gender Matters workshop challenged our development team to test assumptions about who is making philanthropic decisions and stretched our thinking on engaging donors as true partners in our mission,” said Raissa Smorol, senior director of individual philanthropy at Santa Barbara City College.

“We left inspired to use a more gender-conscious lens in our work,” she said.

Quantifiable research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute confirms the increased spending power of women.

A significant economic shift is occurring with more women in undergraduate settings, leading to an increase in education and earning potential. In 40 percent of households women are the primary breadwinners and are projected to control $22 trillion by 2020.

“Women are more frequently in the philanthropic driver seat, given the increased money being earned and inherited, and their influence in the household giving,” said Loehr.

“It’s clear that our Leading From Within network is eager to engage and learn, based on the overwhelmingly positive response to this workshop,” said Carrie Randolph, executive director of LFW.

“We appreciate that the Natalie Orfalea Foundation invited us to partner on this exciting opportunity.”

For more information on Leading From Within, visit

— Ann Pieramici for Natalie Orfalea Foundation.

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