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Who makes charitable giving decisions?

A new report by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute seeks to answer the question “Who decides about charitable giving in U.S. households?” Based on the first new data on this topic in 15 years, Women Give 2021: How Households Make Giving Decisions examines charitable decision making in the context of overall household financial decisions and COVID-19 . Although the report notes significant gender differences in motivations and patterns of giving, it also highlights women’s increased participation and presence in the public sphere and home.

This report lists six key findings around household decision making on charitable giving.

  1. More than 6 out of 10 couples make charitable giving decisions jointly.
    In households where one partner makes the decision, women are slightly more likely to do so than men. Additionally, the proportion of these woman-only deciding households has increased substantially from 2005 to 2020.
  1. Charitable giving decisions are most comparable to those for short-term financial management.
    Of these two types of decisions, however, households are more likely to make those related to charitable giving separately.
  1. Demographic characteristics affect households’ charitable giving.
    Age, having children under 18, religion, and education affect charitable decision making. Other  factors that affect charitable decision making include home ownership, number of children, wealth, and relative income.
  1. The way in which households decide on giving affects the average amounts given.
    Households where the man decides tend to give the most, and households where individuals decide separately the least. Couples who donate jointly give significantly higher proportions of their household incomes than those in which one partner makes the decision alone.
  1. Individuals who give without consulting their partners have different thresholds based on gender and joint decider status.
    In general, men and couples that decide separately are more comfortable giving larger gifts without consultation.
  1. Most households are satisfied with their charitable giving decision making and agree on the amounts and recipients of their donations.
    Around three out of four couples agree on how much to give to charity as well as where to give. Most often, these conversations around giving involve one or both partners without other voices—but the frequency around these conversations varies greatly between households.

“For nonprofits, this is an opportunity to rethink how they engage very member of the household in conversations around giving and impact,” said Jeannie Sager, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

Women Give 2021 is the 12th signature report conducted by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute focusing on gender differences in giving to charitable organizations. The Women Give reports are funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and can be found in the Women’s Philanthropy Institute research library.


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