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Growing financial independence opens doors for women beyond fundraising

TAMPA — Hands down, hands-on charity work is a woman's domain.

Filling food baskets and collecting clothing for those in need typically falls to women. Men are more apt to put a check in the mail.

But that may be changing, professional fundraisers say.

As women advance economically, they may have more money than time on their hands.

"Women are traditionally volunteers, not philanthropists," said Deborah Kotch, president of St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation. "Their giving money, in addition to giving time, has evolved over the last two decades.''

With more women earning college degrees and owning businesses, they've become prime targets for donations in their own name, separate from a spouse.

"They approach philanthropy decisions differently,'' continued Kotch, noting a $15-billion increase in women's charitable giving since 1996.

"They're not just getting dressed for the ball,'' Kotch said. "They like to feel connected. Stewardship is important to them."

Earlier this year, two local hospital foundations launched groups to channel rising female economic power.

Kotch started Philanthropic Women for St. Joseph's Hospitals. Elaine Shimberg and Donna Jordan seeded the group with $25,000 each. Five other women pledged $10,000 each.

Tampa General Hospital Foundation formed the Women's Leadership Council, spearheaded by founders Pam Muma, Holly Tomlin and Suzanne Perry.

"Some women don't have time to come in and rock the babies, or sit at the info desk," said TGH Foundation executive director Robin DeLaVergne. "But they want to do more than give money. The WLC builds that connection."

Both groups invite women, for a minimum annual donation of $1,000, to socialize with other successful women two or three times a year. They learn about medical advances, vote to allocate the funds they collect and follow their investments.

"It's cyclical,'' Kotch said. "As each year starts, they'll pick a new project and follow up on the previous years'. They'll have the satisfaction of seeing results from the collective impact of 100 women giving $1,000."

Collaborating on charitable choices adds a component of friendship that appeals to women.

"It's not the same with men. You should have seen them (the women) network around the room,'' said DeLaVergne, describing their inaugural meeting May 6. "That's a benefit we can provide them."

More than half of the 35 women in attendance joined.

Kotch offers another perk to Philanthropic Women members and others involved with the foundation. Should they ever need special attention, a patient concierge service offers extra assistance to the donors.

Female financial independence and business acumen helped break into another traditional male bastion: the boardroom.

"You look for the three W's when filling board positions — work, wealth and wisdom,'' Kotch said. She credits a Texas nonprofit for coining a fourth W: wallop.

Now comes a fifth, women, said Kotch, noting nearly 50 percent of St. Joseph's foundation board members are women.

In 2005, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft tapped philanthropist Carol Morsani to help identify a group of female donors to endow academic scholarships and faculty grants.

Morsani and 30 others founded USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy with a minimum gift of $25,000 each. Besides Morsani, that list includes Suzette Berkman, Sharon Blanchard, Marty Couch, Cornelia Corbett, Maureen Dunkel, Muma, Bella Patel, Nancy Schneid, Elaine Shimberg, Linda Simmons and Erika Wallace.

The endowment stands at $1.3-million, with 10 scholarships awarded to date, said Jenna Felder, who replaced retired founding director Juel Smith in May.

New members can join for a $1,000 annual contribution.

"It's like a pay-it-forward, woman-to-woman, to share their resources and experiences with our female faculty, staff and students," Felder said.

Members are invited to mentor students, attend research presentations and meet VIP speakers.

"I never cease to be amazed at how much people want to help you,'' Kotch said.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at ascherzer@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3332.

Growing financial independence opens doors for women beyond fundraising 09/11/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 11, 2008 12:32pm]

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