The changing status of women is fueling and informing philanthropy.

With growing earning power, expanding professional skills, profitable businesses of their own, and deepening control over family trusts and inheritances, women now have the means and the will to invest in philanthropic change.

In fact, over the past few decades, women have been making more decisions about greater wealth every year.

Consider: The latest IRS figures, from August 2008, report that 43% of the nation’s top 2.7 million wealth holders are women (top wealth is defined as $1.5 million in assets).

Assets of those nearly 1.2 million women were valued at $4.6 trillion, or about 42% of the total $11 trillion of top wealth holders.

In addition, women control nearly half — or 48% — of estates worth more than $5 million.

They account for more than an astonishing 80% of consumer spending, to the tune of $3.7 trillion.

And over 10 million firms are owned 75% or more by women, employing nearly 23 million people and generating $3 trillion in revenue, as of 2009.

Then there’s women’s longevity compared to men. On average, women live about five years longer than men. Since women tend to marry men older than themselves and they also remarry less frequently after a spouse dies, women aged 65 and older are now three times more likely to be widowed than their male counterparts.

All of this puts women in line to control inherited money from husbands and families and, of course, with more education and leadership positions in the society, increasingly likely to earn significant income themselves.
As a result, over the past several years, significant numbers of women donors and advisors have joined philanthropy’s ranks. Women have moved into the mainstream of philanthropic endeavor.

Across the board, women’s deepening engagement in philanthropy is having an impact on social policy, the choice of grant awards, program development, nonprofit management, fundraising, and even grantor-grantee relationships.

That adds up to unparalleled potential as more and more women eye their legacies.

Has your organization talked to a woman donor in the last month?

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