Research | March 24, 2021

Do women give more to charity? It depends how you look at it.

Women's hands holding hearts and flowers

Who gives more charitably: women or men? Research shows the answer is not simple and there’s more to learn. 

This is part 1 of a 2-part series on women and giving.

In the last several decades, several studies from Europe and North America have shown that women tend to give charitably more often than men. Still, men are generally outpacing women when it comes to total donation amounts. 

Slowly, some things are changing that could alter the playing field. Over about the next decade, Canadian women are expected to gain about $900 billion in wealth and are anticipated to control close to 48% of accumulated wealth in Canada by 2026. Compare this to 2016, when Canadian women controlled a 35% portion of this wealth. 

A U.S. study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute found that as women’s income rises, they become more likely to give to charity than their male counterparts. In keeping with that trend, women billionaires are emerging as high-profile philanthropists. In the most salient example, Mackenzie Scott is estimated to have given away $6 billion in 2020

As a signatory on the Giving Pledge, Scott has committed to giving away more than half of her wealth to charity within her lifetime. She joins other self-made women billionaires,  including Spanx founder Sara Blakely, entrepreneur and investor Lyda Hill, and health care company founder Judith Faulkner. 

It should be noted that the proportion of women who account for the world’s billionaires is still quite small at 12% (according to Forbes last count in March 2020), which is just above where it was in 2015 at about 11%. 

Who gives more overall: men or women?

There’s readily available global data about how much and how often women give compared with men. Starting with a view from space, we know that 73%  of charitable donors in the world are women. A U.K. study found about 90% of single women give more than single men

The question remains: are women actually giving more when it comes to sheer dollar amounts? Generally, international research has shown that men tend to give more overall than women, even though they account for fewer donors. 

But it’s not entirely that simple. Some research out of the United States offers conflicting data on whether women’s giving outpaces men’s. A number of U.S. studies have maintained the common thread that women are more likely to be active donors and men are more likely to provide higher donation amounts. Still, there is a growing amount of counter evidence. 

We know American women are giving more and more often online. Even among very wealthy Americans, women may still be in the lead when it comes to charitable giving. Among a U.S. study of households with net worths over $1 million, 93% of women gave money to charity, compared with 87% of men. One in four of these women donors chose to give to causes that supported women and girls, a historically underfunded area. 

What the Canadian statistics show

Canadian statistics offer a clearer view that women are giving more often while men are giving more in total amounts. Overall, Canadian donors are most likely to be women, aged 35 and older, with higher education and income levels, who are religiously active (according to 2012 data from Statistics Canada). 

Canadian women do tend to volunteer more than men but, according to 2013 statistics, that is only due to a large gap among those aged 35 to 44. Over half (52%) of the women volunteered, compared to 44% of men in that age group; whereas, volunteering rates were equal between men and women across the other age groups.

Canadian women are more likely to donate money and more likely to donate material goods, particularly among younger generations. Among those aged 15 to 34, 59% of women had donated food, compared with 45% of men, and 79% of women had donated material goods (such as clothes and toys), compared with 59% of men.

There is a small but significant gap between the proportion of all Canadian women and men who give money charitably. In 2013, 84% of Canadian women said they had made at least one monetary donation to a charitable or non-profit organization, compared with 80% of Canadian men

When it comes to absolute dollar amounts, men do tend to give more—likely due to their overall higher income. Canadian men were more prominent among “primary donors”: 10% of individuals who gave the most money during the year.  

Canadian men outpace Canadian women in total giving—for now

There is a bit more to the story about women’s giving in Canada. Looking at tax data alone, women’s share of giving is actually growing at a faster rate than that of men’s. Over decades, women’s giving has increased alongside increases in their income and participation in the workforce. 

The value of charitable donations claimed by Canadian women just about tripled between 1985 and 2014, from $1.1 to $3.5 billion. In the meantime, the value of donations claimed by men about doubled, from $2.9 billion to $6.2 billion. 

The Imagine Canada report citing these stats notes that “the relative role of women has increased more slowly than the increase in absolute donations might lead one to believe (going from 28.1% of donations to 35.9%) because men started off claiming such a high proportion of donations.”

In other words, Canadian men have generally earned more and maintained more wealth than Canadian women, laddering up their giving to higher levels. As equality of wealth slowly increases between women and men, the gap in total charitable giving between those two genders is narrowing.

Looking at the data, it is possible in the future that women could give more money charitably than men. How will this affect charities and the charitable sector as a whole? That could depend on the ways that women give and the causes they tend to support. We will explore those themes in an upcoming article. Stay tuned… 

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