Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has set aside $100 million for charity, in a move that observers say reflects a renewed sense of urgency in philanthropic giving by — and for — women following last month’s presidential election.
Sandberg donated 880,000 Facebook shares to the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Fund, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the Wall Street Journal, the “donation will be used to fund LeanIn.Org, her nonprofit focused on women’s empowerment,” among other organizations.
“A lot of very powerful women are investing in women’s causes and, quite honestly, there’s been a renewed push to invest after the election,” said Melanie Ulle, a Denver-based philanthropic adviser and consultant to nonprofits. “Women feel that the patriarchy is alive and well — the outcome of the election confirmed that for many people — and they want to change that.”
Thousands of Americans have donated to causes related to reproductive rights and women’s issues since the election, she said. Planned Parenthood, for example, received nearly 80,000 donations in the three days following the presidential election, which the organization’s president called “an unprecedented outpouring of support,” according to The Atlantic.
“We have this idea that philanthropy is old white men, but that is changing,” said Debra Mesch, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University. “Women are earning more money, they have more education. Their role in philanthropy has been growing exponentially.”
More wealthy women are making their mark publicly, not just by working behind the scenes of family foundations as they typically did in the past, Mesch said. Sandberg, is at the forefront of that movement, along with Melinda Gates, Priscilla Chan and Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of Spanx who has pledged to give away most of her wealth.
“These are high-profile women who are not only coming into their own, but who have their own values and visions about how they want to change the world,” she said.
By some estimates, women now make up nearly half of the country’s millionaires, and about 10 percent of its billionaires. But Mesch says it’s not just the uber-wealthy who are becoming more involved in philanthropy.
“There has been a groundswell of women of all income levels coming together to give what they can,” she said. “They’re sitting at their dining room tables forming community-based networks with each other.”
Last year, Americans gave an estimated $373 billion to charitable causes, according to an annual report by the Giving USA Foundation. Among the largest recipients of philanthropy: Religious groups (33 percent), education (16 percent) and human services (12 percent).