Last month, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) celebrated a milestone; from 2009 to 2019, WPI has organized a panel on gender and philanthropy at the ARNOVA annual conference. For those less familiar, ARNOVA is the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, and its annual conference convenes hundreds of scholars to advance research on nonprofits. (Abby Rolland live-blogged her ARNOVA 2019 experience, including one of WPI’s panels.)
Back in 2009, research on gender and philanthropy was in a nascent stage. WPI was a relatively new part of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, back then the Center on Philanthropy at IUPUI. It was not yet widely recognized that women and men approach giving differently.
In 2019, things look a little different. Not only was this our 11th panel on women’s philanthropy, but the research in this space has grown to such an extent that WPI organized two panels! For the first time, we split the research into papers examining women and men as donors, and a second panel of papers that look at philanthropy dedicated to women and girls.
We took this opportunity to ask attendees from this year and past years why they think WPI’s panels are important for moving women’s philanthropy forward. One attendee from China at this year’s gender and philanthropy panel is researching that country’s oldest known giving circle and attended the panel to learn more about women’s giving circles.
A couple of PhD students attending the giving to women and girls panel were interested in data sets that can inform their own research on gender and philanthropy. Other attendees worked with charities serving women and girls and wanted to learn more about the Women & Girls Index that WPI released in October.
I checked in with paper authors and presenters from this year and past years to understand why WPI research is an important addition to the ARNOVA conference.
Dr. Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm is an economist at IUPUI who has researched gender and philanthropy for a number of years—including advising on WPI studies over the last decade. Wilhelm said, “For me the importance of the WPI at ARNOVA is keeping the obvious question—Are there differences between women and men in philanthropic behaviors from which we can learn?—in front of everyone’s mind.” He noted that asking about women’s philanthropic behavior is not considered “unconventional” now, and he attributes this mainstreaming of women’s philanthropy in the discussion to WPI.
Dr. Angela Eikenberry of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and current ARNOVA President, said, “The WPI has helped to raise up the visibility of women’s philanthropy research at the ARNOVA conference. Thanks to these efforts, gender and gender-identity-related research continues to grow at the conference and in the field.”
Jessica Bearman, part of the Collective Giving Research Group, shared that WPI’s panels serve to keep this topic on the research agenda: “WPI’s consistent and thoughtful presence at ARNOVA keeps us all focused on the ways in which women’s giving shapes philanthropy. I’m confident that this issue will stay on the table because WPI creates this space and ensures that our focus isn’t diluted.”
Another key aspect of WPI at ARNOVA is convening power. Dr. Pamala Wiepking, Visiting Stead Family Chair of International Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said, “The WPI panels at ARNOVA have expanded my knowledge and the network of scholars interested in the study of gender and philanthropy. They are always insightful, and very collaborative in spirit.”
Finally, Elizabeth Gillespie, doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska Omaha, shared what WPI provides her and other emerging scholars: “The WPI panels brings a consistent gender perspective to ARNOVA, and an avenue to learn about current research focused on women and girls. I’ve had the honor of being a presenter on one of WPI’s panels. It was a great opportunity to share my research with others and, importantly, to contribute to gender-focused discussions at ARNOVA.”
We at WPI are grateful for all of our colleagues and partners at the school and other institutions who have participated in or attended our panels at ARNOVA over the last decade. And we aren’t stopping there! If your research has interesting findings related to gender and philanthropy, or giving to women’s and girls’ causes, please reach out to be included in our panels in future years!