Interview of Lois Buntz, Author, Expert on Women in Philanthropy, & Mentor, AFP IDEA Women’s Impact Initiative
As National Mentoring Month comes to a close, I am reflecting on my year-long mentorship with Lois Buntz, author of the newly-released Generosity and Gender: Philanthropic Models for Women Donors and the Fund Development Professionals Who Support Them (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022). Lois and I were paired by the AFP IDEA Women’s Impact Initiative as I launched my own consulting practice. Based on her own 40 years in the field as a fundraiser, nonprofit executive, and educator, she has offered a well of wisdom, experience, friendship, and support. It was my pleasure to sit down with her recently to discuss her book, her reflections on mentorship, and her goals for the new year.
Interested in mentorship? Apply for AFP's 2023 mentorship programs before the January 25 deadline, AFP/Blackbaud Emerging Leader Mentor Program and the AFP/Alford Group Women’s Impact Initiative Mentor Program.
Q: How did you come to this project and what was the process you undertook to bring it to life?
A: As the CEO of United Way, I had been a founder of our Women’s United philanthropy group. This experience opened my eyes to the capacity of women to give and connected me to numerous women philanthropists. After I transitioned to consulting work, I decided to interview women philanthropists and collect their stories with the intention of writing a short book. As I began to research the topic, read studies from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, and reflect on my own experiences as a fundraiser, I realized there was a larger book to be written. Many women leaders I knew connected me to philanthropists across the country, directors of women’s foundations, and pioneers in the field of women’s philanthropy. I was fortunate to hire an editor and obtain a publishing contract during the early stages of the book. Unfortunately, COVID stalled the publication for eighteen months.
Q: What are some of the best lessons you learned (or are learning) in your research, writing, publishing, or promoting your book and how will you take these lessons into 2023?
A: Women have tremendous financial capacity and a sincere desire to make an impact in their communities, country, and the world. My research confirmed what many women knew anecdotally. We think about philanthropy and practice it differently than men. If I had known the structure of book earlier in my research, I would have asked different questions of some of my participants and engaged an even broader diversity of women. I want to share the knowledge I learned about how women give and how fundraisers can engage more women. My book is one avenue to share that information, but I also hope to do more conference presentations. There is so much potential that is untapped and I want to help fund development professionals grow their women’s philanthropy initiatives. I also learned that you need a lot of help when writing a book and in retrospect, I should have asked for more assistance from a variety of established authors.
Q: In your research for the book, was there any data that surprised you or made you look at something differently than you have in your own work throughout your career?
A: Only 1.6% of all philanthropic funds go to organizations focused on women and girls. This startling statistic hasn’t changed much in decades. It was a surprise and disappointment to be confronted with this reality as I did my research. The good news is women have the potential to change this through their giving and their leadership.
Women have more financial capacity than ever, and it will continue to grow substantially. Many women may inherit twice in their lifetimes, through their parents and a spouse. More women are working, and younger women are more comfortable with their wealth. All these factors contribute to women being great prospects for philanthropy. Until my organization developed a specific women’s philanthropy program, I didn’t focus on women donors as much as I could have. Once established it was the most successful affinity group at United Way and continued to add donors and grow resources.
Q: What new questions or trends are you seeing emerge in women’s philanthropy since you completed your manuscript? Are there stories or themes you would add?
A: There is more emphasis on the diversity of donors and fund development professionals need to engage a wider variety of women. Yolanda F. Johnson’s work with women of color in fundraising, the Ms. Foundation and the Gates Foundation are all putting more emphasis on the social, political, and economic issues that impact women. Philanthropy is a way for women to have a voice and make a difference. I also think women’s philanthropy needs to grow its role in activism. Women need to step up their giving more! MacKenzie Scott is an excellent example of how women with high wealth can make a difference.
Q: You mentioned that all the women you interviewed had a role model or mentor who inspired their philanthropy. Can you talk about women who have inspired and/or mentored you?
A: My mother was a very compassionate person and although she didn’t have any financial resources to give, she always was willing to help others. She certainly inspired me to have a career that included “helping others” and “giving.” I had several other fund development professionals who have been role models. Martha Taylor and Sondra Shaw Hardy, authors of Women & Philanthropy were a tremendous support team and so encouraging during the writing process.
Q: As a role model and mentor yourself, what is it that you hope to inspire in the younger generation of philanthropists, book writers, development professionals, and entrepreneurs?
A: I hope by sharing my book, mentoring through the AFP/Alford Group program, and my consulting work I can inspire younger fund development professionals and especially women to reach higher, set ambitious goals, and not be afraid to try something new and difficult. I was in my 60’s when I launched into writing a book and it’s never too late to learn new skills and challenge yourself to grow. The fund development profession needs new leaders and great women. One of my motto’s is “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
Q: It occurred to me that there are lessons in the experiences of women’s giving circles and women’s nurturing networks for women’s mentorship groups. Can you offer a reflection on this? How do you think women working together to support a common purpose in women’s giving circles can inform women’s mentorship groups such as the AFP Women’s Impact Initiative, which brought us together as Mentor/Mentee?
A: One of the themes about how women practice philanthropy is social networking. Women like to be engaged socially. They want to build relationships. They like to work in groups, learn from each other, and share their knowledge and experience. They love to collaborate, communicate, challenge themselves, and create. The mentoring program is an excellent way for women to make a connection to others, learn in a group, and share their insights. I would hope the relationships that have been built continue past the program and I would love to hear about all the projects that were completed.
Thank you for sitting down with me Lois and thank you for your support and friendship over the past year. I look forward to continuing it into the far future :)
Lois Buntz, CFRE, is a national leader in nonprofit fundraising based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her consulting focuses on strategic planning, major gifts, endowments, and women’s philanthropy programs. Her book, Generosity and Gender, is available at https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-90380-0 or on Amazon.com. She can be reached at email@example.com. // Tara Stone Medina is a Washington, DC-based fundraiser specializing in grant writing and prospecting in the international higher education, democracy, and human rights sectors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tara Stone Medina is a bilingual (English/Spanish) fundraising consultant and grant writer with 15 years of international experience. Her career has included roles in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, raising more than $230 million in grants from U.S. and Canadian government agencies, U.S. and European foundations, global corporations, and local companies. She holds a Master’s in Latin American Studies and a Master’s in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin and is based in Washington, D.C.