Broads, Give Smarter

Mel Ulle | Guest Contributor

Many women feel the term "philanthropist" doesn't apply to them. I have this conversation with clients all the time, and as a philanthropist who is proudly middle-class, I love to educate people on how they can evolve their giving into actual philanthropy.  

Donor Vs. Philanthropist 

Different professionals define what makes a philanthropist in a host of ways. I like to think of the "switch" from giving to philanthropy as the rigor and restraint a person begins to apply to her or his giving. Lemme break it down: 

A woman who is donating to a myriad of organizations in all areas with no rhyme of reason is a donor. A woman who is refining her giving to a smaller and more thoughtful pool of organizations is a philanthropist

A woman who says yes to every request is a donor. A woman who gives pause to requests and determines if she is the best player to engage in the organization is a philanthropist.

There are many philanthropists who donate small amounts to a large number of organizations, but still have a vision for what those dollars will do for their community.

One of my earliest memories of a donor who had refined her giving came in my early twenties when I was working for a political candidate's campaign. The donor told me, "we only give to female candidates."  I will always remember this woman and at the time, she was declining my request. How powerful!  She had put actual parameters around her giving!  It was brilliant.

Giving as a Philanthropist 

Broads, here are some hip tips to move you from acting as donors to giving as philanthropists.

1) Define your overall budget for giving each year.  Even if it's $100, you need to use that $100 as wisely as possible to translate to the greatest impact!

2) Define your "buckets" for giving.  A bucket could be cancer research, or animal welfare or women's health. I like to have three buckets, and no more.

3) Decide how you will give.  Perhaps it will only be through events because you are social and enjoy "Do at the Zoo," or "DAM Uncorked."  Maybe you only want to give online through crowd-funding campaigns.  Maybe it's a hybrid.  But make the decision and stick with it.

4) Don't make donations that don't make you feel good. We have all given out of obligation to organizations that do not resonate with us. Don't do it.  It takes away dollars from the things that fill you with joy.

5) Use your words.  Once you have established your giving plan, regardless of how meager it is, explain to friends and colleagues what your priorities are so they know you are serious about your giving. It will help you to stay on the path and will eliminate much of the unwanted requests you receive today.

Good luck, Broads!  You got this you philanthropists, you!


Melanie Ulle is the Founder and CEO of Philanthropy Expert, LLC.  Her expertise is in philanthropy, working with both funders as well as the nonprofits they support. She is also co-founder of Women in Kind, a networked co-working community for women.