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UCLA

Gifts from the Heart

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By Claudia Luther

Published Jul 1, 2014 8:00 AM


In 1994, UCLA fundraisers couldn't understand why more women didn't give to the university. Turns out, all they had to do was ask.

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Joy Monkarsh. Photo by Pamela Springsteen.

Imagine this: You are the wife of a significant donor to nonprofits and charitable causes. Maybe it is even you who signs the check that goes to the beneficiary.

Then you receive the thank-you note — addressed to your husband. Or a thank-you gift — say, an expensive pair of binoculars — for your husband. Or an invitation to lunch with a prominent leader in the cause or institution — again, for your husband.

Even 20 years ago, long after the women's movement was well under way, this was the way things were. But today women are not only getting the recognition they deserve, but also are stepping up in major ways as philanthropists in their own right.

What changed? In many ways, credit can go to the way things have evolved in the greater society as increasing numbers of women have found financial success of their own and have a stronger say in all things related to money.

But at UCLA, there's another, more personal reason why women are now a substantial force in giving: the creation of Women & Philanthropy at UCLA in 1994.

Now preparing for a festive 20th-anniversary celebration this summer, the tight-knit group, which has served as a role model for similar organizations around the country, is about to take a giant step forward that will bring many more philanthropic women into the fold.

Launched with just 15 founding members who each pledged new gifts of $25,000, Women & Philanthropy had grown to 140 members by 2013. And in two decades, these women have given more than $161 million to UCLA. Now the group will expand its reach to recognize and include more women for their major giving to the university, aiming for a membership of 1,000.

"With the 20th anniversary and the success we've had, there is a strong interest in reaching out to the next generation of givers," says Susan Baumgarten '73, M.S. '76, M.B.A. '79, Women & Philanthropy's current president. "We feel that it's a good time to look to the future as we celebrate our past."

Nor could it come at a better time, as UCLA launches its $4.2-billion Centennial Campaign for UCLA, to run through 2019, the 100th anniversary of the university.

With Women & Philanthropy on the cusp of expansion, this is a good time to consider how the group came to be. To find out, it is necessary to go back to the early 1990s, when Dyan Sublett and Karen Stone, both then senior development officers at UCLA, started asking why there were so few women listed among the university's major donors.

Initially, they got answers such as "because they don't give." But Sublett and Stone didn't understand why, since women were known to hold wealth. Did these potential donors not feel included and respected? If so, did this affect their decisions on whether or how much to give?

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