“Rage Giving.” The Women Donors Behind the Surge of Support to Progressive Groups

The women’s march on Washington, January 21, 2017. Erin Alexis Randolph/shutterstock

The women’s march on Washington, January 21, 2017. Erin Alexis Randolph/shutterstock

It’s no secret that many women have been enraged by the ascendancy of Donald Trump, the policies of his administration, and—most recently—the battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. What’s less well known is how this anger has affected charitable giving. But new research released this month found that a good part of the “Trump bump” in fundraising for progressive groups following the 2016 election can be attributed to women donors.

The new research, by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, examined donations made through an online giving portal to 131 top charities during the week before and the week after the 2016 presidential election. The charities were rated as having a progressive, conservative or neutral political slant.

While donations were lower than expected immediately after the 2016 election, women’s gifts did not show as much of a drop as men’s. In the week before the presidential election, women gave an average of $1,586 more to charities than men did. In the post-election week that year, women gave an average of $3,905 more than their male counterparts.

What’s more, women’s contributions went mostly to groups deemed to be liberal or progressive such as the Planned Parenthood Federation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Immigration Law Center. Such groups received an average $184 more from women than men in the week before the election. During the week after the presidential contest, charities to the left of center received $1,098 more from women on average than from men.

The study also noted that the segment of the American population that gives politically is growing, doubling over the last 25 years, from 6 to 12 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Donors increasingly care about aligning their values wherever they spend or give money, from choosing to purchase sustainable products, to making impact investments, to giving to political candidates and campaigns they judge to be most in line with their values,” the researchers wrote. “Giving to charity is no different.”

Commenting on the surge of donations to certain progressive groups, the researchers cited “rage giving,” in which people donate to charity out of a negative response to an election, especially to causes debated during the campaign such as immigration and minority rights, reproductive rights, and climate change.

But regardless of their political leanings, charities are affected by politics; the average charity in the study raised a lower-than-expected amount immediately after the 2016 election.

“In short,” the researchers concluded, “all nonprofits should be prepared for fluctuations in their gifts following an election.”  

If next week’s mid-terms heavily favor Republicans, including continued GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives, it’s likely that we’ll see another spike in small donations to progressive groups. Conversely, big Democratic gains could generate a surge in funding for conservative organizations.