SB Independent, Guest column by Nicki Parr: Giving to Women’s and Girls’ Organizations Reaches Everyone

In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko memorably stated that “Greed Is Good.” Ultimately, Gekko opined, greed would save “the malfunctioning corporation of the USA.” In the intervening 37 years, wealth accumulation has grown exponentially, but one could debate whether the USA has been “saved” in the process.

The answer could lie in philanthropic giving trends, which have trended downward, particularly in recent years. Before 2007, the percentage of Americans regularly giving to nonprofits was 67 percent. Now that number is less than 50 percent. A similar trend is shown among affluent Americans, where the amount who gave regularly decreased from 98 percent to 82 percent, according to “Study of Philanthropy” by Bank of America in 2023.

Of greater concern, however, is the level of giving to women’s and girls’ organizations, which in 2020 was a dismal 1.8 percent of the total amount donated to nonprofits.

Women and girls were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and research recounted in the Women & Girls Index, produced by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, has since shown that in many ways, the pandemic reversed progress on gender equity, due to the additional pressures on women trying to manage child and family care while still working. Dr Jamsheed Damooi, an economics professor at Cal Lutheran University, even referred to the extreme of this trend as the feminization of poverty.

When you give to organizations that support women and girls, you contribute to solving the root problems of gender equity, social impact, and increased well-being. Organizations dedicated to women and girls perform vital work in education, reproductive justice, gender-based violence prevention, affordable housing, health care and health-care research, economic equity, and advocacy for all of the above. Giving to women’s and girls’ organizations helps create a world that works for everyone. And a world that works for everyone, well, it works for everyone.

If saving the world sounds overwhelming, then start local. Against all expectations, Santa Barbara County has one of the highest poverty levels in all the State of California. There is need all around us, but there is also opportunity galore through the tireless work of our nonprofits.

Support an organization like Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), which focuses on entrepreneurship as a means for women living in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to attain economic success and equity. WEV’s clients provide some of the essential services and products that keep our local community thriving, unique, and diverse. They include childcare businesses, green businesses, preschools, makers markets, and more.

Or support organizations like Girls Rock and Girls Inc, both of which provide vital after-school, day-camp, and enrichment activities for low- and middle-income families. Through being able to count on affordable and reliable programs, parents can continue to work to support their families, directly increasing their economic opportunities.

The inaugural issue of The Giving List Women, which is to be published in April, will also shine a much-needed light on 50 selected women’s and girls’ organizations, both here and further afield, to publicize the impact of such organizations and close the gap on the level of philanthropic giving.

In 2023, we witnessed the undeniable power of the female consumer dollar with women now controlling or influencing more than 85 percent of discretionary spending. By 2030, women are expected to control up to $30 trillion in the U.S. as a result of the Great Wealth Transfer through inheriting from parents and spouses.

Let’s make 2024 the rise of the female philanthropic dollar and start to change the narrative around giving to women’s and girls’ causes, to accelerate change and accelerate an inclusive society that works for us all. And to boldly recast Gordon Gekko’s words: Giving Is Good, Giving Is Right, Giving Works … and giving will turn around – and bring together – our world.

Nicki Parr is the chief operating officer of Women’s Economic Ventures, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Barbara.