Who Decides? - April 9, 2021

Yesterday we commemorated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I was humbled to participate in the annual Reading of the Names at the Holocaust Memorial in Washington Park. You can also watch this moving video from the March of the Living Yom HaShoah program. Finally, please watch this message from First Lady Jill Biden recognizing the work Jewish communities do for Holocaust survivors.
Have you and your significant other ever argued about who pays the bills? Which charities to donate to? How much to contribute? In the end, the question often comes down to who decides.
Recently, Wendy Kahn, Jewish Federation’s Campaign Director, participated in a webinar from The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy) that addressed this very issue. She shared with me the Institute's recently published report – Women Give 2021: How Households Make Giving Decisions.
This report examines how households make charitable decisions. It places charitable decision making in context with other financial decisions that couples make and explores how these decisions relate to the amount couples give. It unveils new information about how conversations about giving take place, and whether couples are happy with their decision-making processes.
First and foremost, the question of “who decides?” matters. Each household is unique and has different conversations about giving; this has real-world implications for how much households give, and to what causes and organizations.
Women Give 2021 builds on a body of research on gender differences in giving. When individuals form couples (no matter who is in the couple), women and men bring different motivations, preferences, and resources together to their conversations about giving. What do these conversations look like? Do different partners have more influence in these decisions? What is the process for making decisions about giving, and are households generally satisfied with their decision making?
Key Findings from the report:
1. More than six out of ten couples make charitable giving decisions jointly (61.5%). When one partner makes decisions for the household, women are slightly more likely to do so than men (15.3% and 12.1%, respectively). The remaining couples (11.1%) decide separately.
2. Compared to other types of household financial decisions, charitable giving is most similar to short-term financial management.
3. Certain demographic characteristics, such as age, religiosity, and relative education, are associated with how households decide about charitable giving.
4. Charitable decision making is related to the average amount households give. On average, man-deciding households give the most, and separately deciding households give the least.
5. Individuals have varying threshold amounts for giving without consulting their partners. Couples who decide separately, or where men solely decide, have the highest threshold for giving without consulting their partners; couples deciding jointly, or where women solely decide, have much lower thresholds for consultation.
6. Most households seem satisfied with their charitable decision making, and partners broadly agree on their giving; around three-fourths of couples agree about the amount and recipients of their giving (74.6% and 77.5%, respectively).
Age and education also matter for who decides. Older couples are more likely to give jointly, and younger couples are more likely to give separately or assign giving decisions to the man. When women and men have different education levels, the partner with more education is more likely to make giving decisions.
Households’ decision-making styles are related to the amount they give, as well as the amount they feel comfortable giving without talking to their partners. Overall, households seem happy with their decision making, and broadly agree with their partners about how much they are giving and to what causes. Many of these findings echo previous research, but some provide new information about how couples talk about giving. Here, respondents appear to see giving as relatively transactional, like paying a bill.
Overall, in response to the broad question, “who decides?” couples appear to answer “both of us” most of the time, though this figure has decreased over the last 15 years. Today, women tend to take responsibility for charitable decisions more than men.
Jewish Federations long ago understood the importance of and impact of women’s giving. Our own Women’s Philanthropy program continues to grow and expand its donor base, the amount raised from women, and programmatic opportunities made available. Women philanthropists view themselves as the change-makers and community-shapers of the world, and, the Jewish Federation's Women’s Philanthropy wants to engage Jewish women in building and supporting Jewish life for today and for generations to come.
Check out our Women’s Philanthropy webpage and watch Wednesday’s program with national Jewish leader and philanthropist Julie Platt. Women truly do lead the way.
Just a reminder:
Next week we will commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. On Tuesday, April 13 at 5:00 p.m. Listen to an intimate conversation about loss and the healing power of personal and collective mourning as shared by Israelis who know the heartache from their own experiences. And, at 7:30 p.m. that evening, join our Portland Israeli and Jewish communities in honoring those who gave their lives for the State of Israel. This will be a 30-minute virtual program hosted on Zoom.
Our community will host multiple programs celebrating Israel’s Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut. On the eve of Israel’s 73rd independence celebration, Wednesday, April 14 at 5:00 p.m., there is a virtual tour of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Israel. Register here. The Jewish Federations of North America will be hosting a Global Celebration of Israel on Thursday, April 15 at 4:00 p.m. with His Excellency Reuven Rivlin, outgoing President of Israel. The MJCC will also be holding a special virtual community celebration on Sunday, April 18 -- check out the full schedule here.
In addition, the Technology Association of Oregon will present a resiliency series with Wendy Singer, Executive Director of Startup Nation CentralOn Tuesday, April 20 at 8:30 a.m. she will discuss Israel’s healthcare system and the secrets of its success in rapidly vaccinating Israel’s population. Register here.
Shabbat shalom.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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