In nearly 90% of high-net-worth households, women are either the sole decision maker or equal partners in decisions on charitable giving, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey in conjunction with The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Non-profit organizations should adjust their messaging accordingly, BoA said. Most notably, women want to be far more engaged in philanthropy than men, as evidenced by the fact they spend more time than men on due diligence in making charitable decisions. Women expect a deeper level of communication with the organizations they support—and want to know, specifically, what kind of an impact their gift will make. In fact, many women want to be actively involved, and often volunteer, at the charitable organizations of their choice.

Perhaps most importantly, 49% of women who do not feel this level of involvement—or who say that they are being solicited too frequently or who are asked for "inappropriate" sums—often decide to cut off their donations, whereas men tend to support the same causes year after year; only 41% of men are likely to stop giving to an organization.

“As women create and control a growing share of wealth in the country, their influence in philanthropy is more evident,” said Claire Costello, national foundation executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “This study helps to quantify the philanthropic clout that women have and demonstrates to nonprofit leaders and fundraisers the value and impact of engaging women, especially high-net-worth women, in the organization’s mission.”

The study also found that 78% of women have an annual giving strategy and/or budget, compared to 72% of men. Eighty-two percent of women want a personal experience with a nonprofit, compared to 73% of men. Forty-six percent of women want their charity to communicate its impact, versus 32% of men. Additionally, 80% of women want to request how their gift will be allocated, whereas only 68% of men do. Ninety-one percent of high-net-worth women want to receive a receipt for tax purposes, versus 83% of men.


  • 44% of high-net-worth women want to set a good example for the next generation, compared to only 25% of men.
  • 81% of women want their gifts to be used efficiently, compared to 69% of men.
  • 78% of women want to give back to the community, compared to 63% of men.
  • 50% of women are confident in nonprofit institutions, compared to 34% of men.
  • 87% of HNW women have volunteered, compared to 78% of HNW men. Among retirees, these figures become 85% of women and 72% of men.

Lee Barney writes for Money Management Executive.