Philanthropy in its most basic definition means “love of humanity.” I like to believe that people are basically good — that we all start out with the best of intentions, full of that love of humanity. Sometimes the world is a cold and lonely place and that love fades (and maybe some people are born jerks, I don’t make the rules). But philanthropy is a way to spread that love back into the world and fix problems — poverty, hunger, homelessness — where we see them.
Women are well-represented in charitable efforts in Central New York. Some of them are described in these pages: cover woman Jordan Sheridan Zapisek, who, at just 22, started her own nonprofit to guide families through the process of dealing with a pediatric cancer diagnosis; Mary Lou Sayles, executive director of the Huntington Family Centers, which provide a laundry list of services to residents of the Near West Side; Beth Trunfio, who this year marks her 20th year at the Syracuse Ronald McDonald House, a home away from home for families of kids battling major illnesses; and Debbie Monaco and Ruth Bates, who started a chapter of Dining with Women to aid families half a world away.
But they’re not alone. Look at all of the other women leading nonprofits across Central New York — Vera Jones at the Dunbar Center, Kate Houck of David’s Refuge, Lyn Hy at the Food Bank of Central New York, Jennifer Covert at North Area Meals on Wheels, Elizabeth Dunbar at the Everson, Dr. Najah Salam Jennings-Bey at the Street Addiction Institute. The list goes on.
And that trend of women heading up nonprofits isn’t just a local one. According to an article in the August 2019 issue of NonProfit PRO, more women are taking the lead at nonprofits nationwide. In fact, Forbes Magazine reports that more women are gaining ground in many spheres — their 2018 list of billionaires included 256 women out of 2,208 entries, an all-time high. While Forbes, in an article from July 25, 2018, reports that wealth is still predominantly controlled by men, women’s private wealth grew 50 percent over a five-year period — from $34 trillion in 2010 to $51 trillion in 2015.
As women gain more wealth, the way the world gives will change. The NonProfit PRO article notes that women are “twice as likely to view charitable giving as the most satisfying aspect of wealth, and women are more likely to value their wealth as a way to create positive change.” Statistically give away almost twice as much of their money as men (3.5 percent vs. 1.8 percent), and they’re more likely to give to causes they feel a personal connection to — causes that benefit women and girls, which have historically been underfunded. The Forbes article explicitly states, “investing in women and girls yields one of the best social returns.”
There’s a lot of philanthropy in Central New York, but there’s also a lot of need. And women have historically been up to the task. As more and more women get to the corner office, let’s make sure we remember to love our fellow man.