Jacqueline Ackerman is the assistant director for research and partnerships at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. In this post, she describes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s investment in research on gender and philanthropy.
In late 2014, a program officer from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Philanthropic Partnerships team approached the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI). She shared with us that WPI’s work aligned with the Foundation’s goals, and that they had some research questions they’d like us to answer. That initial conversation opened the door to a partnership that has lasted more than three years and has transformed WPI and the advancement of research on gender and philanthropy.
Why did the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invest in WPI?
The Foundation’s two grants (Expanding knowledge, Men’s and women’s giving) to WPI come out of the Giving By All initiative, a Foundation effort to encourage more giving by all segments of society in the U.S. WPI researches one lever for increasing philanthropy: gender. Women, and their potential to give to charity, have been historically overlooked.
Two key questions underlie all of WPI’s research for these grants:
- What factors influence women and men to give more, give more intentionally, and give more effectively? This broad question addresses many aspects of giving, such as donor education, household decision-making, life cycle and demographic changes, technology, and newer forms of philanthropy like impact investing.
- Giving to women and girls: who gives to these causes, and where and why do they give? What factors influence this giving? How can this giving be increased, and how can more people be engaged in supporting these causes?
WPI is the only organization with both the subject expertise on gender and philanthropy, combined with the rigorous methodological approach that underlies all research at Indiana University, to effectively answer these questions.
What has been the impact of the Foundation’s investment with WPI?
Thanks to the Foundation’s funding, WPI’s research output has increased exponentially. Before this grant, WPI released an annual research report as part of the Women Give series. Now, not only does WPI continue to release Women Give annually, but we have produced a number of additional reports on key topics in the field – and plan at least eight more releases during 2018!
Thanks to the support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WPI has published research on a variety of topics:
- How giving by young women and men today is different than in previous generations, and how women’s changing role in the family influences giving (Women Give 2016)
- How women and men experience the “joy of giving” differently (Women Give 2017)
- Giving circles and other forms of collective giving, a key way women engage in philanthropy
- How women and men engage differently on #GivingTuesday
In addition to simply producing more research, the Foundation’s grants have allowed WPI to engage more communities and partners in discussions about how women and men give differently, and how to encourage all people to give more and to give more effectively. WPI has connected with other researchers, data providers, foundations, individual donors, nonprofits, and policy makers thanks to funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
What has been the impact of the Foundation’s investment on the field of philanthropy?
At WPI, our vision is that data and research can challenge assumptions and prompt changes in philanthropic behavior. Turning that vision into action calls for full engagement by donors, fundraisers, and policy makers alike. Thanks to the Foundation’s investment in research on gender and giving, the field of philanthropy is slowly changing to bring all people—both women and men—more fully into their identity as philanthropists.
The research projects linked above were completed with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The findings and conclusions in the research, and the views expressed in this blog post, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official positions or policies of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.