As Gen X and baby boomer women realize they qualify as philanthropists, new platforms and groups are emerging to equip them with community and context.
As wealth arrives, women build communities and a context for giving.
“We were in the position of having more than we needed,” said Amanda Millerberg.
It’s a dilemma that most people dream about. Her husband, Spencer Millerberg, founded, grew and then in 2016 sold a data analytics company. Suddenly, the possibilities of philanthropy landed on their doorstep. The family of seven had long been involved with the Church of Latter-day Saints, but soon realized that they could fund high-impact projects outside tithing and church ministries.
But … how?
Winging it didn’t work out. “I started doing local grants and it quickly became overwhelming,” Millerberg said. “I knew I wanted to work globally but I didn’t know how.”
She needed structure, training and a cohort of similarly situated women so she could give strategically. Through Fidelity, where the Millerbergs set up their donor-advised fund, she found the Maverick Collective. Now, Millerberg said, she’s working with a small group of like-minded women to ensure that her family’s priorities are being realized. She and two other members of the collective fund a pilot program in Guatemala and have visited to understand how they can work alongside program directors there to fulfill their mutual goals for health and reproductive rights.
As the great wealth transfer starts to unfold, and Gen X and baby boomer women realize that they qualify as philanthropists on their own merits, middle-aged women are seeking new ways to give. New platforms and groups are emerging to equip them with community and context — two dynamics that echo preferences women have for career growth.
“Gen X and [older] millennial women feel more empowered in what they’ll give to,” said Katie Collins, vice president and investment officer with Fiduciary Trust. She’s on the advisory board for the firm’s independent donor-advised fund operation. “The philanthropic conversation is rooted in their values. It’s a unique place for advisors to hear about the impact that clients want to have on the world. Even if they don’t have funds to open a foundation or a DAF, it’s an interesting way to get to know clients. And if it’s a couple, engage them both.”
She’s seeing cases, Collins added, in which couples with sharply diverging charitable priorities “divide out the funds and each approach it in their own way.” In the past, some advisors say, married women have tended to capitulate to their husbands’ charitable priorities, asserting their own after the spouse dies.
The first edition of a new annual research project conducted by Nuveen reinforces Collins’ perspective. The Nuveen Wealth Inheritor Research Study found that 64% of inheritors who were introduced to their parents’ financial advisors as young teens continued that relationship after inheriting. But wealth recipients likely want a different array of services from their advisors than their parents did: Half want to “fund a financial legacy” or give to charity. And wealth recipients are likely to continue gathering information about investing and giving from a variety of sources, instead of relying only on their advisor for guidance, reinforcing the role of advisor as connector.
The Maverick Collective, founded in part by Melinda French Gates in 2013, has three points of entry for new women donors, scaled to the amount they can give (from $50,000 to $1 million and up); the type of cause and donor community they might join; and the timeline of the project. Its mission is to equip members to work alongside communities and better understand their own values and potential effect in the process. Millerberg said that for her, the greatest advantage has been “the global access, to have a better understanding and vantage point, and to not feel that I was alone”.
The Maverick Collective itself operates under the umbrella of Population Services International, a global health advocacy organization, said Rena Greifinger, managing director of the collective and direction of individual philanthropy at PSI.
“Women told us, philanthropy is confusing, and it’s lonely,” Greifinger said. The communities built through Maverick’s “experiential philanthropy” have sparked collaborations among participants to invest in new companies run by women as well, putting venture capital on the spectrum of social transformation change. Through giving and funding, she said, collective members are “using their social and intellectual capital to figure out how to be agents of change.”