How Women Find Their Authentic Philanthropic Voice

The light in young woman hands in cupped shape. Concepts of sharing, giving, offering, taking care, protection

By Margaret May Damen, CFP, CLU, ChFC, CAP

Women’s traditional patterns of giving are dramatically shifting.  There is a definite trend for women to be more discerning how they give of their time, talent and especially their money.  Women are more selective in not only how, but also, why, and where they give their money. With their well-earned financial independence comes the empowerment to be strategic in supporting programs and organizations that strive for systematic change rather than just maintain the status quo.  Women are taking a serious look at their community and asking, “how can I do good, why is this cause important to me, and where can I really make a difference?”  For many women the time has come to form valuable partnerships with like-minded friends to amplify their voice to help solve problems and create a better environment for future generations. And once women believe in their cause, they will support it for the long-term and consider their gifts as investments that impact their community and their way of life.  When women give because they can give they want to make sure their dollars have social and political significance to change society and their community. And perhaps because women now have the financial freedom to make meaningful giving decisions, they have a desire to be role models for their children and to inspire other women.

In conducting the research for my book “Women, Wealth and Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation,” co-authored with Nicki Nicastro McCuisiton, I found that women who choose to use their authentic philanthropic voice share three virtues:  Courage, Confidence, and Love.

Courage, confidence and love, seem to be what the world needs now. We are bombarded by thousands of message thrown at us from modern-day media – TV, radio and the internet – all asking for help for good causes. How does one know where to give money, time and talent, how much to give, and, when necessary, how to say no to a worthy charity that just may not align with one’s values and vision?   The good news is that more and more women are empowering themselves by looking inward to find what they really care about in their lives and  then living those hopes, dreams,  and aspirations with an authentic voice to create a community for the greater good of all citizens.  And they reinforce their commitment to the issues and concerns they support by not allowing adversity to drag them down. Women philanthropists of this modern –era are perennial optimists who confidently lead others through uncharted waters in search of lasting solutions to systemic problems. They remain restless until their goal is met and exceeded. They remain responsible for their actions yet open to working with others and are both leaders and followers for the same cause, knowing and respecting all diversity of individualism and thought.

Furthermore when all three virtues are in alignments, women find reassurance in knowing who they are and what they want to accomplish as philanthropists. They also recognize that it is not only self-interest to use one’s resources for the common good but that it is also altruistic and fulfilling to express the values and vision in one’s heart through one’s pocketbook and checkbook.

My definition of each is:
  • Courage is the ability to sustain the steadfast pursuit of one’s conviction and beliefs in the face of skepticism or discouragement for other or from ourselves.
  • Confidence is the ability to judge wisely and objectively in all matters pertaining to how, where and why to invest one’s time, talent and treasure.
  • Love is the ability to trust in the expectation of right and proper being accomplished in all your acts of beneficence and rejoice in the happiness of others.

When I interviewed Margaret Smith, CEO of Dormus, one of the San Francisco Bay area’s largest independently owned kitchen and home accessories stories, she described his authentic voice in these terms, “My volunteerism and donations are more cause-based. I really believe in the causes of women entrepreneurs and in the validation of the social, economic, and political impact they are making on the world and the world economy.”  As an entrepreneur she herself has been generous with her time and talent and money for over 30 years. In times of adversity and economic uncertainty it has taken courage for Margaret to champion positive messages and focus on the solutions built on what is right, not on what is wrong in our world.

Women’s authentic philanthropic voice reflects personal beliefs as well as values they feel strongly will create a more just and humane community.  The entries in their checkbook register reflect their courage, commitment, and love for the issues they support.  Take a look at the entries in your checkbook – is that who you really are, and what you really care about?  Does the picture from your checkbook represent your honest feelings about what is meaningful in your life?  Is it your authentic voice?  Is the money in your investment portfolio allocated to corporate and social issues that practice responsible corporate citizenship in their conduct of business?   And if not — what do you want to change?

Business owner and former Martin County, Florida school board member, Jody Bond believes in family values and in the economic vitality fostered by a good education system., “I grew up in a loving family,” said Jody, “where we always looked out for each other, worked hard, and encouraged each other to do our best at home and in school.“  Bond’s strong commitment to family and education is evident from the moment you walk into her jewelry store, Just Gold, in Stuart, Florida.  On many occasions when you visit her store you will see a contented grandchild sitting happily in a playpen while mother and grandmother attend to a customer. Jody is quick to tell her customers and friends, “I prefer that my money help families and education issues and these are the values I hope my daughters and grandchildren will inherit from me as we work side by side in the business. I want them to take an active part in making the business decisions of where we volunteer our time or give financial support in the community.” When Jody talked about philanthropy, her authentic voice  resounds with commitment in support of family and education issues.

Women’s authentic philanthropic voice is enthusiastic and contagious and charged by an unshakable faith in their capacity to reach and sustain their philanthropic goals. They see their life story as an inspiration for others and a legacy of significance for family, friends and community.  What keeps the desire burning to make a difference?  Their positive energy is like a magnet, attracting others to also give gratitude for blessings received and the quality of life they work to sustain. They bring the love and passion of their conviction to each decision and each deed in doing the work that is dear to their heart and for which they have courageously committed their time, money and talent.

Love of her work and her passion for others to know and experience the transformative power of the arts and arts education on individual lives, communities and schools is the lifetime mission of Florida Cultural Alliance president Sherron Long.  In high school, Long first saw the profound effect a live musical production can have on young people when attending a production in New York of the musical Man of La Mancha.  “ I watched my classmates  at the end of the performance crying and deeply touched by what they experienced in the theatre,” Sherron recalls, “and I thought to myself ‘if something can move people that much, in a short period of an afternoon performance, that’s what I want to devote my life to doing’.” Her goal in high school had been to study marine biology, but that quickly changes and she went on to get an MFA in theatre directing and taught in high school and college. During her work for the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs she realized how critical advocacy was to ensure government understands its role in funding arts and arts education and how important the arts to the quality of life of all citizens. Sherron has dedicated her life to help support a creative industry that enriches lives and connects people in meaningful ways through arts and cultural experiences.  Her love for her mission rings true in her authentic voice as an advocate for diverse and quality arts education and cultural resources throughout the state.

Courage, Commitment, and Love are the three virtues that weave together the lives of Margaret Smith, Jody Bond, and Sherron Long even though they may not know each other. Each woman speaks with her authentic voice expressing how, why and where she wants to make a difference with her time, talent and money.  Philanthropy creates a community where every woman can speak her authentic voice for the cause they choose to champion.  What are you saying?

Margaret May Damen, CFP, CLU, ChFC, CAP
President and CEO, The Institute For Women and Wealth
Co-author “Women, Wealth, and Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation”

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