What Fundraisers Need to Know About How Women and Men Give During Retirement | npENGAGE

What Fundraisers Need to Know About How Women and Men Give During Retirement

By on Aug 29, 2018


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This article is part of the bbcon 2018 Speaker Series on npENGAGE. Get a taste of the 250+ sessions that will help your organization transform and have a bigger impact!

The number of retirees is growing quickly. In the United States, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day through 2030. What do nonprofit fundraisers need to know about how this growing population approaches charitable giving during retirement?

This question is at the core of “How Women and Men Give Around Retirement,” the latest study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI). It is the first known scholarly research to explore how retirement affects charitable giving, and to do so through a gender lens.

So, what did we find out? For years, economic studies have shown that people generally reduce their spending on many types of expenses when they retire. But our study revealed that when it comes to philanthropy, households typically maintain giving levels. This is certainly good news for fundraisers, who may be inspired to do a database review and identify opportunities to cultivate or deepen relationships with retirees.

Women and married couples give more.

The report uncovered several differences between how women and men approach giving during retirement. Single women and married couples are more likely to give, and give higher amounts, compared to single men – both before and after retirement. This pattern is consistent with previous WPI research, which shows that women tend to give more and more steadily throughout life stages.

According to Kathleen Loehr — author, fundraising consultant and chair of WPI’s Advisory Council — this is an important reminder that fundraisers should adapt their practices to ensure they’re appealing to both members of a household. Nonprofits are missing out on opportunities to deepen donor relationships and leaving dollars on the table when they meet exclusively with the male of the household.

Also, remember that like all donors, women go through life stages during which they may be more or less likely to engage with an organization. Retirement represents a prime time to re-engage women who may have previously been focused on other priorities.

Women and married couples give more consistently.

In addition to giving more, women and married couples also demonstrate more stability in giving around retirement. Single men’s giving fluctuates at a higher rate.

For fundraisers, this suggests there is a significant advantage to beginning or continuing donor cultivation before women approach retirement age. By starting cultivation early, women’s giving may even increase during retirement. Additionally, loyal female donors who give consistently to your organization over time, even in smaller amounts, may make excellent planned giving candidates.

The findings also point to the importance of engaging male donors to proactively plan for giving during retirement. While single men experience greater volatility in both the amount and consistency of their giving around retirement, a long-term strategy or monthly donation program can help to stabilize their giving over time.

Single women increase volunteering after retirement.

The report also found that women and married couples were more likely than single men to volunteer around retirement age. Single women were the only demographic to actually increase volunteering during this time period.

Kathleen emphasizes that fundraisers would be wise to approach single female donors around retirement age with opportunities to deepen their involvement with the organization. Whether it’s a volunteer position or an invitation to serve on a task force or the board, single women are leading candidates for these types of activities.

The findings also indicate that single men would benefit from new types of opportunities to volunteer or engage — beyond the annual golf outing. Nonprofits can experiment with new engagement models that attract men and allow them to draw on their passion, experience and skills to support the organization.

Learn more about how women give differently.

Kathleen and I had the opportunity to sit down with Blackbaud’s Steve MacLaughlin to discuss the retirement report and WPI’s research about gender and philanthropy more broadly. You can listen to our episode of the Raise + Engage podcast here. As women continue to accumulate wealth and influence, we believe it’s important for every fundraiser to deepen their understanding of how women give differently. The podcast is a great place to start.

Join Andrea Pactor for her bbcon session, “How Women Give: Insights to Inform Donor Engagement,”  with co-presenter Susan McPherson, founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, to learn more about how nonprofits can think more strategically about how to best cultivate female donors. Register today!


As interim director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Andrea is responsible for program and curriculum development and implementation, marketing, social media, and operations. She has organized four national symposia on women and philanthropy for the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and five national conferences on the same topic in partnership with CASE. She co-developed the first-ever online course about women and philanthropy, Women and Philanthropy—The Time is Now, for The New York Times Knowledge Network and the online conference, SHEMAKESCHANGE, about the intersection of women, money, and philanthropy.

Andrea is co-author with Dr. Dwight Burlingame on a chapter on the history of donor education and with Dr. Debra Mesch on research and women’s philanthropy for From Donor to Philanthropist: The Value of Donor Education in Creating Confident, Joyful Donors (2013). She is also co-author of chapters on women and philanthropy, notably in Fundraising Principles and PracticesLeadership in Nonprofit Organizations, and Achieving Excellence in Fundraising.

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