On campus at Duke: engaging Duke women in philanthropic conversations

What does money mean to you? That was one of the questions we posed to women who returned to campus earlier this year for Duke Women’s Weekend 2018. Throughout the weekend, attendees stopped by the Duke Women’s Impact Network (WIN) Lounge for informal conversation and networking. Whiteboards posed open-ended questions, including one that asked Duke women what money represents to them.

The WIN Lounge at Women’s Weekend provided a lively gathering spot for Duke women of all ages.

In general, women tend to give similar answers for what money represents at various ages and stages of life. For women in their early 20s, who may be paying off student loans or saving up for a first home, money is the necessary foundation for independence. In midlife, when women are often rearing children and caring for aging parents, managing household budgets is essential to maintaining a sense of security. For those who are recently divorced or widowed, or nearing retirement, financial peace of mind means having a large enough nest egg to live comfortably as we age, regardless of any health issues that might arise.

We also asked WIN Lounge visitors to imagine if they had $1 million to give to Duke how they would spend it. Not surprisingly, women endorsed ideas that helped others — namely, reducing student debt, encouraging community-building initiatives, and investing in academic programming and research. This impulse to effect positive change aligns with national research into how women and men consider wealth and philanthropy. In the groundbreaking book Reinventing Fundraising: Realizing the Potential of Women’s Philanthropy, authors Sondra C. Shaw and Martha A. Taylor note that “Whether they inherit, earn, or marry money, women are becoming a powerful financial force, and they are increasingly looking at money as a way to change society for the better.”

From recent graduates to those nearing retirement, women at various life stages say money represents independence, security and peace of mind.

Duke alumna Melinda French Gates ’86, M.B.A.’87, Hon.’13 is an international advocate for women’s philanthropy, and philanthropy that supports women and girls. As she has noted, “Philanthropy is not about the money. It’s about using whatever resources you have at your fingertips and applying them to improving the world.”

Likewise, Duke WIN works to illuminate and accelerate ways women in the Duke family can celebrate and honor their values while supporting and strengthening Duke’s mission to make the world a better place. In the process, we’re facilitating frank and informative conversations about how we as women achieve financial security and wield economic influence. These conversations are important and worthwhile, as women are living longer than men, earning more money on their own, and making the majority of household budgeting decisions.

Duke WIN is dedicated to building a community of women who aim to be part of something bigger than the individual; it is a philanthropic catalyst enabling Duke to fulfill its greatest potential. We welcome hearing how we can provide the tools, insights, vehicles and inspiration to inspire women to give philanthropically in ways that are both personally fulfilling and institutionally transformative.

To join Duke WIN, make a gift, learn more or share how Duke WIN can inspire charitable giving among women, please contact Bridget Booher, director of Duke Women’s Impact Network.

TAGS: Duke Women's Impact Network On Campus at Duke

About the author

Gift Planning


Duke University’s Office of Gift Planning specializes in charitable gift planning for estates, charitable trusts and annuities, and other complex current and future gift plans.

For more information, please contact the Duke University Office of Gift Planning.