I’ve never read “Town & Country” magazine in my life. I thought it was about house stuff, like “Better Homes and Gardens,” or something. But my doctor’s office had this special June 2008 issue on women’s philanthropy and was gracious enough to let me borrow it. I was right that it’s aimed at women but it seems to be more highbrow than I had imagined, based on the expensive jewelry ads and extensive coverage of black-tie galas. (Maybe the fact that I didn’t know this tells you more about me than about the magazine.)
Anyway, the issue. I’d give you a link to it but they have absolutely no content on line except for the horoscopes. (Which I think tells you something about the magazine.) The cover has Ashley Judd in a purple dress, if that helps.
The main article is called “A Woman’s Guide to Giving: How to Find Your Cause and Make an Impact with Your Money.” The magazine also did a survey of almost 2000 readers to find out about how these women give their time, talent and treasure.
According to the survey results, 73% of the Town & Country readers thought there is a difference between how men and women approach giving. The most fascinating part of the survey is the free-range quotes from respondents, included on page 153.
- “I really admire Melinda Gates. This is a woman who could be spending her time doing anything and has chosen meaningful philanthropy.” [Any admiration for Bill, who is leaving Microsoft for the same thing? Do women perceive that Melissa led the way?]
- “Women = Heart. Men = Tax Deduction” [Is this a slam on men or women or both or neither? Consider it a rorschach test.]
- “Fundraisers often expect men to give more; therefore, men are catered to.” [Not clear if this means the woman wants more "attention" from fundraisers (which implies an ego motivation) or that her concerns are different with regard to the charity (which implies merely a different decision-making process from men).]
- “Men typically give based on who is asking. Women on who is benefitting.” [Men seek prestige? Women are pure altruists?]
Lest you think women are not business-savvy or discerning in their decision-making, the women surveyed also had these comments:
- “It’s important to me to know how the charity is run. It can have the best intentions, but without effective management, it will fail.”
- “Philanthropy is just a tool in the service of creating change. The real solutions come from people, not from money.”
- “I continued to support United Way during its time of negative publicity, since I ascertained that the improprieties were at the central, not the local, level. I hate to see the charity suffer because of some people who have acted inappropriately.”
Makes me wonder if the conversation at Tactical Philanthropy (and the article on which it is based) is too broad when it asks “Why do people really give to charity?” In there an implicit assumption we’re talking about men? Are there actually identifiable gender differences in the way people give? Are women a reliable source for identifying those differences? If not, who is?
Since, according to the survey, 99% percent of women make the decisions about the groups the household supports, either jointly with their spouse (71%) or alone (27%), it’s definitely worth figuring out.