Women's Philanthropy Institute

The Institute focuses on building the confidence of women who could possibly face social barriers to giving, and encouraging them to overcome these obstacles to reach their full philanthropic potential. Women are encouraged to give back to the Institute and the greater nonprofit society.


The mission of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute is to inspire, educate and encourage women to effect change in the world through philanthropy (Women’s Philanthropy Institute).

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute focuses on building the confidence of women who could possibly face social barriers to giving, and encouraging them to overcome these obstacles to reach their full philanthropic potential (Ibid.).

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute is not a funding institution, but rather an organization that provides women with programs and services to enhance their knowledge of philanthropy.  The Institute provides various means in which to encourage philanthropy including, publications, articles, speakers, trainings, and consulting services.   These services provide women with the opportunity to begin or increase their philanthropic strength (Ibid.).

Historic Roots

Historically women have been powerful philanthropic givers to causes they supported.  In the 1970s, as women demanded equality, they began to further explore their own philanthropic potential.  Large advances were made in the 1980s when foundations began to push for solidarity.  In 1985, the Women's Funding Network was formed in San Francisco to help support and bring together various foundations.  The Network became the leader of the women's funding movement (Fisher 2003).

Women have always played and important role in the philanthropic community.  It has only been recently however, in the early 90s, that their opinions and perspectives on their own giving have been solicited (Wagner 2004).  These views have been strengthened and efforts have become united.  Women are working together to generate more effective ideas and promote each other in their efforts.  It is in this history of enlightenment that the Women Philanthropy Institute was formed.

Founded in 1997, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, formerly housed in Rochester Michigan, moved January 1, 2004 to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus (Women’s Philanthropy Institute).  


Women’s needs are of growing importance.  Funding and programs that support women and their unique issues are essential for continued development.  According to the Nokomis Foundation, “women are 60% of the minimum wage earners in the country” (Michigan Women’s Foundation).  Most importantly, and what statistics reveal, women business owners are more likely than male business owners to volunteer or encourage their staff to volunteer (Ibid.).  This reveals the importance of encouraging women to enter into the philanthropic community. 

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute is important because it provides an arena for women to educate themselves in the area of philanthropy. Women have historically given their time and money to issues they support.  It is important that women educate themselves not only about the importance of giving, but have a place to share their philanthropic ideals.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute is important in many ways to the broader philanthropic sector.  The Institute believes that women are important and unique in their giving.  Women are encouraged to donate based on six distinct areas, or as the Women’s Philanthropy Institute identifies them, the “6 C’s of Women’s Philanthropic Giving.”  The 6 C’s include Create, Change, Connect, Collaborate, Commit, and Celebrate (Women’s Philanthropy Institute). 

To Create:  To help create a new opportunity for philanthropic leaders to work together to inspire, educate and encourage women to fulfill their philanthropic potential (Ibid.).

To Change: To support an organization dedicated to helping women change the world through philanthropy (Ibid.).

To Connect: To connect to a national network of philanthropic leaders (Ibid.).

To Collaborate: To collaborate with philanthropic leaders to promote the development of research and best practices on the topic of women and philanthropy (Ibid.).

To Commit: To commit voluntary and financial resources to the development of women’s philanthropy (ibid.).

To Celebrate: To celebrate the philanthropic leadership of women past, present, and future (Ibid.).

These six beliefs are the basis in which women are encouraged to give back to the institute and the greater nonprofit society (Ibid.).  Encouraging these ideas as a model of giving strengthens women’s ideas of themselves and their own importance in society. 

Key Related Ideas

Giving Circle:  The idea of collectively giving to society by pooling individuals’ funds together.  These groups in turn decide which charities or investments they will support. Giving circles vary greatly from size to extent and purpose.  Giving circles are important because they facilitate group ideas about philanthropic giving (Minnesota Tool Kit for Giving).

Women’s Funding Movement:  The idea that there is movement shaping surrounding women and philanthropy.   It is a movement defined as have the following characteristics: A core constituency, leaders, a mass audience, and opposition/enemies. What is at stake?  Vital interests, core values, and hidden agendas like race, class, and ideology. What makes a movement work? Local action, acts of symbolic power, and milestones (Capek 2001, 1).  This movement is most evident by the numerous organizations that support women and philanthropy.

Women’s Philanthropy:  The movement to empower women to contribute to society in their own special way.  The movement is powered by the belief that women can gain from education about giving, and as a result, make better headway in today’s society.  

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Ann Castle (1951- 2000):  Castle championed extensively for the on-going effort to involve women in philanthropy.  She spoke on several occasions on her research pertaining to the topic of women and philanthropy, in which she is said to be and expert in the field (Women in Philanthropy).
  • Lilya Wagner:  Newly appointed director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Ms. Wagner has been a leading educator in the area of women and philanthropy.  She has spoken on many occasions as to the importance of encouraging women in their giving.  In addition, Wagner has written the book, Careers in Fundraising, and is a professor at Indiana University.  She has won awards for her work with women’s issues (Women’s Philanthropy Institute).   

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, houses the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.  The Center promotes knowledge pertaining to philanthropy and works to improve practices (www.philanthropy.iupui.edu/).
  • Girl Scouts of America is an organization committed to helping girls of all ages gain skills to become successful in today’s world.  Girls work with adults to gain “strong values, leadership skills, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth.” The Girl Scouts of America, founded in 1912, now serves over four million members in the United States alone (www.girlscouts.org).
  • Women’s Donor Network is an organization that works to encourage and educate women who are not only donors, but are part of the larger philanthropic community.  Members can seek additional information pertaining to conferences, trainings, publications and other helpful endeavors for furthering and enhance their philanthropic giving (womendonors.org).
  • Women & Philanthropy offers information related to women and philanthropy.  This organization encourages women and girls to create a better society not only in the area of philanthropy, but also in life (www.womenphil.org).

Related Web Sites

The Global Fund for Women Web site, at www.globalfundforwomen.org, provides information on international women’s issues including economic independency, violence against girls and women, and grantmaking opportunities.

Institute for Women’s Policy Research Web site, at www.iwpr.org, focuses on public policy research with issues relating to women. Research Topic areas include Employment, Earnings and Economic Change; Work and Family; Poverty, Welfare and Income Security; and Health and Safety. The Institute publishes and makes available on the site various reports and a monthly newsletter.

Michigan Women’s Foundation, at www.miwf.org, explains the importance of women and funding for women’s programs.  The site includes research and statistics related to women and philanthropy, and links to other nonprofit organizations that provide grants for funding programs focused on the empowerment of women.

Resourceful Women Web site, at www.rw.org, encourages and empowers women to make informed choices regarding investment and giving.  The site lists the various programs offered in the Northern California Bay area and links to projects that are sponsored by or have member participation. Topical publications are also made accessible to members.

Social Venture Partners Seattle Web site, at www.svpseattle.org, provides a schedule of weekly learning opportunities sponsored by SVP Seattle and held in the Seattle area. The site also contains a resource library with information and research on the topics of Boards & Governance, Finance, Fund Development, IT, Management Systems, Evaluation and Advocacy.

Women’s Funding Network Web site, at wfnet.org, offers online training, discussion groups and consulting to members who support the mission of WFN and strive to empower women in their community and around the world.

Bibliographic References

Capek, Mary Ellen.  “Women and Philanthropy: Old Stereotypes, New Challenges” Vol. 3.  Women & Philanthropy. http://www.wfnet.org/news/story.php?story_id=49.

Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University.  General Information.  Accessed 30th September 2004.  http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu.

Fisher, Luchina.  “Women are giving more money that ever.” Women’s eNews, May 2, 2003. http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/1313.

Michigan Women’s Foundation.  Michigan Women’s Foundation.  Accessed 30th September 2004. http://www.miwf.org/movie(1280x1024).html.

Minnesota Tool Kit for Giving.  What is a Giving Circle? Accessed 30th September 2004. http://minnesotagiving.org/options/circle.htm - WHAT IS A GIVING.

Wagner, Lilya.  “Women and Philanthropy: The Power of One!” Women & Philanthropy 2004. http://www.onphilanthropy.com/tren_comm/

Women In Philanthropy.  Tribute to Anne Castle.  Accessed 30th September 2004. 

This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at Grand Valley State University. It is offered by Learning To Give and Grand Valley State University.