Laurie Burns McRobbie

Remarks at the 3rd Annual Women Helping Women Luncheon

Thank you, Michele.  I’m delighted to be here with you today, at the third Women Helping Women luncheon to honor student volunteer leadership at Indiana University.  I’m delighted to be back in Gary and at IU Northwest and to see so many familiar faces.  I want to especially welcome the families of our four exceptional students.  And I am particularly honored that Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has joined us today to celebrate the accomplishments of these outstanding young women.

I want to start by thanking Chancellor Lowe and Vice Chancellor Gabbert for hosting this celebration of volunteerism, and for their dedicated service to Indiana University and the Gary community. I also want to recognize Women’s Philanthropy Council members Lynn Reichle and Penny Gaither, who have joined us today.

And of course, on behalf of all of IU, I want to congratulate the recipients of the 2014 Student Volunteer Leadership award:  Flo Bringas, Deberie Hubbert, Deanna Proimos, and Dorthea Robbins. Congratulations to each of you! 

In a short period of time, this luncheon has become a signature event for Women’s Philanthropy at Indiana University.  Women’s Philanthropy at IU is a groundbreaking initiative at the IU Foundation that we started four years ago as an innovative means of reaching out to women alums and donors, to help them find more meaningful connections with IU. 

Formal efforts at the IU Foundation to engage alumnae and women friends of Indiana University have been underway for nearly two decades, beginning with the Bloomington Colloquium for Women in 1995, an effort spearheaded by one of my predecessors, Peg Brand and several committed female members of the IU Foundation Board of Directors. 

The Colloquium draws about 150 IU alumnae back to Bloomington every other year for a weekend of learning from renowned speakers and faculty and engaging with current students.  It has been an enormous success, but about five years ago, it became clear the Colloquium attendees were hungry for a deeper and more sustained way to stay engaged.  And new research was emerging that underscored the importance of women’s philanthropy.

So in June of 2010, we formed the Women’s Philanthropy Council of Indiana University.  As the leadership group, the WPC provides the IU Foundation with strategic guidance in ensuring that women, who are the majority of our 580,000 living alumni around the globe, are able to make a real difference to the future of Indiana University. 

The work of the Council has already led to a host of new programs that bring women together to learn about what’s new at IU and how they can be part of it.  We have a Colloquium for Women in Fort Wayne, a Women’s Philanthropy Conference in Indianapolis, and a series of events focused on learning and interaction in other cities where we have large concentrations of alumni, like Chicago and New York.

And we have this luncheon, the brainchild of WPC member Janet Smith, who believes strongly that early involvement in volunteerism leads to a lifetime of commitment to one’s community.  Flo, Deberie, Deanna, and Dorthea, you are off to a great start! 

The work we’re doing today with women’s philanthropy puts IU in the vanguard among institutions of higher education in making a strategic and aspirational effort to change how we engage alumnae.  It is also the case that we, and our four honorees today, are following in the footsteps of our foremothers, who created the great tradition of volunteerism and association-building in the U.S. 

Philanthropy is certainly the giving of treasure, but it is also the giving of time. Our four young women are thus continuing a cherished tradition and deserve the accolades we give them in recognition.

It is also true, though, that we have not always been very good about either recognizing or promoting the power of women’s philanthropy.  Despite all the volunteer efforts and the presence of women’s gifts through the years and through most of the last century, development work at Indiana University, just as at other universities, was largely focused on men. 

But in the last decade or so, it was apparent to scholars of philanthropy – most notably those here at IU’s Lillly Family School of Philanthropy, the world’s first such school – that women were in fact giving significant amounts, were more often than not the motivation behind a couple’s gift, and were giving in new, but not always visible ways that deserved attention. 

And these less visible aspects have to do with HOW women choose to give.  Women are more likely to spread their gifts over a greater number of organizations and causes than do men. 

Women, especially older women, are more likely to give anonymously. 

Women tend to gravitate towards collective forms of giving, to amplify the power of their individual contributions.

And women want deeper relationships with the organizations to which they give, which means there’s often more time involved before a contribution is made.

These behaviors mask the fact that once factors such as education, age, income, and others are taken into account, women give more than men, sometimes more than twice as much. 

At IU, the Bloomington Colloquium proved just how strongly women feel about reconnecting with their alma mater, and Women’s Philanthropy at IU capitalized on this energy, and the research, as we’ve pushed into new territory in women’s giving to higher education.  

Since we began our efforts, the Women’s Philanthropy Council has raised nearly $2 million in new contributions for IU.  And some of this money goes to support exciting new projects on IU’s eight campuses. 

Council members make a gift to IU when they join, and a portion of this goes into a fund that the Council manages.  This fund is distributed through an annual grant process.  Over the past two years we have awarded 20 grants totaling nearly $230,000. These grants helped fund projects in areas such as public health, youth STEM and arts education, career development, international outreach, and women in technology. We are in the midst of reviewing another 37 applications for the 2014 grants, and we’ll announce this year’s recipients in June. 

And you too can be part of making change happen at IU, by becoming a Partner in Women’s Philanthropy.  For a donation of any size to the WPC Fund, you will go on our mailing list, get event invitations and announcements, and keep up with what’s going on.  We have a wonderful webpage, and a Facebook page, and I encourage you to like us! 

There is a lot going on at IU that supports and celebrates women’s giving, and I hope you can all be part of it.

In conclusion, I want to again congratulate our four students for their exceptional leadership in philanthropy and volunteerism.  Women of all ages have the power to make a difference, and with examples like Flo, Deberie, Deanna, and Dorthea, the future looks very bright!   

Thank you.