You Can’t Color Something Pink And Say You’re Marketing To Women Donors

A colleague who joined me for the Nov. 10 Community Service Public Relations Council luncheon was wary of the topic, “Marketing to Women Donors.” Would this truly focus on female donors or capitalizing on women’s issues?

Advocay and awareness of women’s issues grows each year. But the three-person panel helped marketing and communications professionals in attendance become more aware of the changing philanthropic roles of women in the United States.

I had the pleasure of moderating the panel of Mary McMurtry, President of Gateway Center for Giving, Jo Curran, director of development for Voices for Children, and Maria Kerford, resource development associatie for the United Way of Greater St. Louis. (Maria was substituting for Orvin Kimbrough, a vice president of the United Way of Greater St. Louis, who was helping the organization make its annual campaign goal.)

First, some statistics from the Shriver Report. For the first time in our nation’s history:

  • Women are half of all U.S. workers
  • Mothers are the primary or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families.
  • In 1967, women made up only one-third of all workers.

The changing roles of women are influencing how we work and live. It also affects families, co-workers, bosses, faith institutions and communities. And it is influencing giving.

“But you can’t just color something pink and say that you’re marketing to women,” Kerford said.

Plus, with women living longer than men, wives often will be making more decisions on estates, bequests and planned giving. Lesson learned: If you’re a male-dominated nonprofit or charitable organization, you must be more inclusive of women in donor cultivation.

“It’s not that a particular widow doesn’t like the Boy Scouts,” McMurtry said. “Her husband may have been involved, but she was never active in the Boy Scouts. So she might want to give to something she’s more involved in.”

The panel provided four areas to focus on:

  • Women want to see a face of your organization.
  • Don’t leave out the details for the women.
  • Women want a sense of group affiliation.
  • Women want to be recognized for their efforts.

All three panelists said there are more similarities than differences when it comes to marketing to men and women donors. Their discussion focused on two general areas: marketing to individual female donors and communicating to females who make decisions on corporate giving or foundation gifts.

“Have stories, stories, stories and know more than one story,” said McMurtry. “In most of the corporations where there are staff positions in grant making, they are women. While the heads of the corporations may be men, very often the decision makers in the company are women.

“Then you must have relationship, relationship, relationship. Nothing is a cold call. The idea that you are going to write a grant and make a cold call are over.”

All three panelists emphasized fundamental communications tactics.

“Tell people what it is that you’re accomplishing,” Curran said. “Show them and demonstrate what has changed in the world or with that child because of what they gave.”

Women may judge a smaller organization’s accomplishments as worthy as a larger organization’s legacy of fullfilling its mission.

“I think that women, unlike men, might focus more on what difference is being made in the programs than the institution or the institutional strength,” Curran said. “I’m hesitant to draw these lines, but many times women are drawn to the fact that they can make a difference or make an impact.”

And it may take more time to influence a woman than a man.

“Women sometimes have a higher threshold of cultivation than men and it will take a woman a little bit longer to be sold on the organization,” Kerford said. “They are more likely to give small gifts to every organization that has asked for them.”

Ongoing communication and cultivation is probably more essential for female donors and grant makers than males.

“If there’s a relationship there, women might be less likely to do a lot of research on the organization,” Curran said. “But men, in my experience, will ask whether or not this is a good place to be giving money.”

Women will be more likely to fund advocacy than men. But organization’s shouldn’t include advocacy simply to raise money.

“Historically or traditionally, you have to know where women have come from in the 1970s and marching for their rights,” McMurtry said. “Incorporating advocacy can help you and your clients that you serve. But it has to be the right fit.”

Women have never been more prominent or powerful than they are today in nonprofit and charitable organizations. As organizations become aware of the overwhelming philanthropic potential of women donors, they must develop fundraising strategies to reach women and be disciplined in tactical approach.

“Women, like men, give because they are asked,” Curran Said. “Women have the capacity. We haven’t been accustomed to asking because women weren’t making the decisions in the old days. The women in this room are now making the decisions as to where the contributions should go.”

Joe Mueller is currently president of the Community Service Public Relations Council.


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