Skip to content

Women and our motivations – ongoing research

Women and allies are on the front lines of community service as gardeners, teachers, caregivers, and counsellors. As women, we often think about needs that are related to our collective quality of life and well-being.

About five years ago, I asked the well-dressed gentleman sitting beside me at a gala fundraiser, “So, why do you give to charity?”

His response was quick, “Well, it’s just the way life works. Get some. Give some – you gotta’ give back.”

More recently, I asked a woman sitting beside me, “Do you give to charity?” She inhaled deeply and said, “I actually don’t like the word ‘charity.’ I prefer giving to change.”

On another occasion, during my time as executive director, a donor was advising me of her decision to make a future gift. She had spoken to her lawyer and was happy with her choice, having thought long and hard about her options. That day, she confided on the phone, “Well, it’s actually all about legacy, isn’t it?”

Duty. Change-making. Legacy wishing. As Canadians, we have motivations for giving that are both personal and diverse and I remain fascinated by the conversation.

In 2015, 40 per cent of all charitable donations claimed on the income tax forms of Canadians were listed as gifts to religious organizations. I consider support for a faith group more like a duty gift, a tradition expected of believers by other believers.

In 2019, this may be a partial truth, but the fact remains, the other 60 per cent of Canada’s $18.5 billion charitable donations pie are gifts based on personal choice, made voluntarily.

Currently in the Bow Valley, our community energy is advocating for change, equity and inclusion in various ways. Pride Week, climate strikes and conversations, wildlife corridors, affordability, bike paths and public transit are local topics of enthusiastic concern.

Whether groups are prioritizing food security or welcoming immigrants; whether we are pushing back against injustice or mental illness, or advocating for the marginalized or elderly; whether the primary concern is air quality, water quality, esthetics, or team dynamics, our motivations for involvement are worthy of consideration.

As a woman, and perhaps due to my female-informed perspective of strong fathers and glass ceilings, I respectfully suggest that it is easier for women to link arms with people who are working outside the centre.

Women and allies are on the front lines of community service as gardeners, teachers, caregivers, and counsellors. As women, we often think about needs that are related to our collective quality of life and well-being.

Neuroscientists suggest that females are hard-wired to "tend and befriend." Yes, we seek social connections that enrich our personal relationships and cultivate feelings of security, regardless of birthplace, condition or social standing. Yes, we aspire to advancement in ways that improve our personal sense of purpose, and that are educational for ourselves and for those we love.

Women enjoy working in careers that envision a brighter tomorrow and support our values. Perhaps the same holds true for many men, but as mothers, sisters, aunties and mentors, the female perspective is informed by our nurturing and empathetic wisdom.

As volunteers, directors, employees, youngsters and citizens, we each have our personal reasons for getting involved and the female perspective may be instructive.

  • When donating their time, expertise or money, women ask questions and often choose to volunteer first, then donate later.
  • Women prefer to invest their time and energy more substantially in fewer organizations.
  • Women prefer giving to groups that work collaboratively, or in partnership on joint projects.
  • Women make choices and commit to obligations based on the interests of family, friends, and professional networks.
  • Women can become highly engaged, fiery and assertive when the work aligns with their passion, as in "You go, girl."

Where do you find your motivation to give back? Feel free to drop me a line and share your insights.

Leaving Ontario in 1976, Lorraine Widmer-Carson spent summers in Banff while finishing her B.Sc. (Hons. Biology) at Queen’s. In addition to chamber maid and waitressing, she has worked for Parks Canada, The Whyte Museum, The Friends of BNP, Banff Centre, and most recently as executive director at the Banff Canmore Community Foundation until 2017. She defines philanthropy as ‘practical kindness that works to actively help humanity’. Allviews are her own and she can be reached at