The Role Women Play in Philanthropy and How COVID-19 Has Impacted Women’s Giving

StartingUpGood Magazine
4 min readApr 13, 2021


By: Brady Press

In honor of the close of Women’s History Month, this webinar is a conversation on women and giving: the role women play in giving and philanthropy and how COVID-19 has impacted women’s giving. Read on for key takeaways from the conversation with Birgit Smith Burton and Christy Butler Eckoff, as well as a link to the full recording.

Webinar Recording

This post covers the fifth session from Changing Our World’s Atlanta Forging Forward Conference Series focused on idea sharing, innovative solutions and a path forward within the Atlanta community.


Birgit Smith Burton, Executive Director of Foundation Relations, Georgia Tech and the 2021 Chair-Elect of the Global Board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals

  • Birgit is a respected leader in the fundraising profession and currently serves as the Executive Director of Foundation Relations at Georgia Tech. She is also a well-regarded speaker and author on the topics of fundraising and diversity.
  • Birgit serves on the global board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and recently was voted Chair Elect for 2021. She has the distinction of being the first African American woman in AFP’s 60-year history to serve in this role. She also chairs the A.E. Lowe Grice Scholarship Fund, serves on Hosea Helps’ Board of Directors and is an advisor for the Aspen Leadership Group.
  • Birgit founded the African American Development Officers Network (AADO), which has provided professional development, education, employment support, mentorship and networking opportunities for fundraisers of color for the past 22 years.

Christy Butler Eckoff, Chief Foundation Officer and Managing Director, Atlanta Jewish Foundation

  • Christy is an expert on charitable estate planning, gift planning, asset-based giving and laws surrounding nonprofits, private foundations, supporting organizations, donor-advised funds and nonprofit taxation.
  • Prior to her current role at the Atlanta Jewish Foundation, Christy served as the Managing Director for philanthropic counsel at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. She also previously served as Senior Director of gift planning at Georgia State University.
  • Christy is the former president of the Georgia Planned Giving Council, past-president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Atlanta chapter and a member of the Atlanta Junior League.

Key Takeaways

  • While many women have been disproportionately financially impacted by the pandemic — losing jobs, leaving jobs to stay home to care for children, etc. — many women who have the funds to do so began investing. A record breaking 10M new brokerage accounts were opened last year. Given that philanthropy is often money we give away after investing, we may see an uptick in women’s philanthropy.
  • There are many ways to interact with a nonprofit other than just giving a grant — such as making a loan or impact investment through a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). Nonprofits would benefit from being creative about different funding streams. Atlanta is probably 5–10 years behind some West Coast cities in leveraging these new ways of funding.
  • Women are leading the way in being open to nontraditional ways of funding, such as impact investing. Women in philanthropy tend to be more entrepreneurial, collaborative and open to taking risks than their male counterparts. They really care about the impact of their support on people.
  • At this stage, nonprofits are more accustomed to asking for grants from foundations and/or individuals, so finding impact investing opportunities is a challenge.
  • Despite criticism that funding to DAFs is not immediately distributed to nonprofits, there are positives to this giving mechanism, as it allows for funds to be deployed in an emergency such as COVID-19. For example, giving at the Atlanta Jewish Foundation was up 30% from this time last year. The Foundation distributed $40M last year — about 15–20% of its assets. Much of this was from women mid-level donors who saw and connected with the human need.
  • Mackenzie Scott gave $4B in unrestricted funding to nonprofits during 2020, which doubled or tripled the budgets of many recipient organizations. Her giving serves as an example for other donors; showing that we can invest in nonprofits like we invest in companies and trust the nonprofits to direct the funds in the ways that help them most.
  • Although Mackenzie Scott’s giving efforts are impactful, all the focus in philanthropy is now on how to get to Mackenzie Scott. There are lots of women is similar positions to Mackenzie Scott, and we should focus on encouraging them to follow in her footsteps.
  • Many foundations won’t consider nonprofits that don’t have at least one full-time equivalent (FTE) or a budget of more than $500K. Some of these thresholds are too limiting and are not relevant to the work these organizations are doing or whether they are fiscally responsible. Black-led organizations in particular face barriers to funding and were left behind in the pandemic.
  • Atlanta tends to be more traditional in its approach to giving, especially among foundations. It’s usually easier for nonprofits to secure funding for a building than for general operating support, to hire a development director or to diversify revenue streams.
  • Foundation leaders should introduce and educate donors on lesser-known organizations that potentially align with their interests but may not be in their existing networks. For example, the Atlanta Jewish Foundation put together lists of lesser-known organizations and Black-led organizations to introduce them to donors. Donors have responded well to these lists and have given funding.

Want to know more?

For more Atlanta Forging Forward coverage, visit our Medium page here and be on the lookout for the next Atlanta Forging Forward discussion on Tuesday, April 27th. Register for Changing Our World’s Forging Forward 2021 Virtual Summit on April 14–16th here.

Brady Press is an Associate Director at Changing Our World, where she specializes in building strategic corporate citizenship programs. She is a consultant to SDGCounting and StartingUpGood.



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