Georgia Women Give initiative engages women through community and philanthropy

Women pose at the launch event of Georgia Women Give

This story was originally published in the summer 2023 issue of the University of Georgia Magazine.

Former University of Georgia administrator and Georgia state legislator Louise McBee concluded her 1974 book, The American Woman, Who Will She Be?, by calling readers to action: “Now, the task is ours. It is up to us to plan and work for tomorrow and for the next generations. This is our responsibility, our challenge and our hope.”

This message is at the center of Georgia Women Give (GWG), a new, women-directed fundraising group inviting more women to become philanthropists and engage more deeply with UGA. And thus far, the message has resonated. In a matter of months, GWG has raised over $500,000–from both women and men–for scholarships, study abroad support and other UGA priorities.

GWG concentrates giving and increases impact by asking donors to designate their gifts to any of three specific funds: a merit-based scholarship fund, a study away support fund and an unrestricted fund that will send money to high-priority areas as directed by GWG’s executive committee.

“Women are ready for a group like this,” says Elizabeth Correll Richards, a UGA Foundation trustee and chair of the GWG executive committee. “Georgia Women Give brings together women of different ages, with different backgrounds, with different life goals all in support of this university that unites us all. We commit to UGA, but our commitment is more than financial. We want to connect with each other, learn from people on campus and–through forging those deep connections–feel fully invested in UGA.”

Several hundred women arrived in Athens for the public launch of Georgia Women Give on March 23-24. UGA President Jere W. Morehead (JD ’80) and Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp (BSHE ’90)(far right) took part in the event. Attendees heard from esteemed alumni like Dana Spinola (BBA ’96) (far left), volunteer leaders like Allison Ausband (ABJ ’83) and Elizabeth Correll Richards (second and third from left, respectively), faculty and students. They also explored campus and exchanged ideas on the future of the initiative.

Focusing on women donors yields numerous benefits, and the data bears that out. A 2020 McKinsey & Company report found that women currently control roughly a third of total household financial assets in the U.S., but by 2030, women are expected to control much of the $30 trillion of baby boomer financial assets. And UGA regularly graduates thousands of women that GWG wants to provide a path to philanthropic impact.

Developing that pipeline is beneficial to UGA, but GWG’s end result benefits everyone. Research from the Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that women are both more likely than men to give to charity and more generous than men when they donate. Women in the top quarter of permanent income, for example, give 156% more to charity than their male peers.

Put simply, empowering women leads to greater giving, to better student outcomes leads and, ultimately, to a stronger future.

“There are so many women out there who have a strong affinity for UGA, who want to see this university and its students succeed,” says Jill Walton (BSA ’99, MPA ’03), UGA’s interim vice president for development and alumni relations. “Women’s presence and interest in the world of philanthropy is growing, and we need to ensure they have a path to support UGA that fits their lives and their interests.”

Just three months after the public launch of the initiative, GWG funds have already received over 50 commitments of $25,000 or more. To build on this momentum, the group is exploring innovative ways to encourage volunteers and donors at all levels moving forward.

“The early response has been fantastic,” says Correll Richards. “And if it’s any sort of indicator for our future, Georgia Women Give’s impact will be felt quickly, significantly, and enduringly.”

Women’s Philanthropy at UGA

Mary Virginia Terry speaking at the podium after receiving an honorary degree during the 2009 Spring Undergraduate Commencement ceremony.

Gifts from the late Mary Virginia Terry and her late husband, Herman, led to faculty endowments, medical research, scholarship funds and the naming of the Terry College of Business.

Bobbi Sahm with son and grandson

Bobbie Meeler Sahm (BBA ’92) made a gift in 2021 to create two endowments: one that awards grants to collaborations between UGA and the Athens-Clarke County community, and another that provides scholarships to UGA students with disabilities and supports programming by the UGA Disability Resource Center that affects the Athens area.

Environmental portrait of Louise McBee sitting at her desk in her office.

A champion of education in Georgia for over 55 years, Louise McBee made one last contribution to UGA upon her passing in 2021: a gift of $3.5 million from her estate to UGA’s Institute for Higher Education. In honor of the transformational gift, UGA renamed the institution in McBee’s honor.

Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta group photos

Two alumnae groups from UGA’s Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta sorority chapters ran successful fundraising campaigns among their respective memberships, creating four endowed scholarships for a sum of nearly $300,000.