Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Leaders, alumni discuss women as philanthropists

On a warm spring afternoon in Toronto recently, Queen’s welcomed 85 alumni to a Celebrating Women as Philanthropists event. The intent was to spark conversation about what influences women’s decision-making regarding philanthropy. 

[Carole Morrison]
Ban Righ Centre Director Carole Morrison was one of 85 women who attended a Women as Philanthropists event held recently in Toronto. The event sparked conversation about what influences women’s decision-making regarding philanthropy.

Sponsored by TD Canada and hosted by Queen’s Board of Trustees Chair Barbara Palk (Arts’73), the event highlighted a new report from TD Wealth, called “Time, Treasure and Talent, Canadian Women and Philanthropy” which was presented by Jo-Anne Ryan, Vice-President, Philanthropic Advisory Services at TD Waterhouse Canada. Among the report’s sometimes unexpected findings:

• Over the past five years, the number of female donors in Canada has greatly exceeded  male donors
• Women are more likely than men to research and become engaged with a charity, often through volunteering, before deciding to support it
• Canadian female donors distribute their support to fewer charities but with a larger donation than male donors, so they can have a greater impact
• Affluent women are nearly twice as likely as men to say that charitable giving is the most satisfying part of having wealth

A convergence of women from across the Queen’s spectrum, the audience engaged with each other and with the panelists, who brought a diversity of perspectives and expertise spanning multiple decades.

In a spirited discussion moderated by former Queen’s staff member Alison Holt (Artsci’87) they spoke candidly about their reasons for becoming involved in philanthropy, what it has meant to them, lessons learned, and their vision for the future role of women in this area. Topics ranged from philanthropy in Africa to the importance of good governance, and the trap of the “cost per dollar raised” as a criterion for choosing which charities to support.  

Amma Bonsu (Artsci’03), a winner of the Queen’s University Alumni Association Humanitarian Award, credited her Ghanian grandmother as an important role model in giving.

“I have been a huge recipient of others’ help,” she said, acknowledging the Ban Righ Centre’s invaluable support during her years at Queen’s. “We are part of a cycle of women giving back. We don’t need to wait for wealth to come before starting to return the favour.” 

Noting the increasing percentage of women on charity boards, former Grant Hall Society Chair and Trustee Katie Macmillan (Artsci’78) urged audience members to, “step forward confidently in leadership positions. We must get past the idea that ‘women’s work’ is restricted to galas and bake sales.”

Anne Raymond (Sc’88), currently VP of Giving on the QUAA Board, suggested that philanthropy gives people a sense of fulfilment and meaning in their lives which financial success alone may not provide. “It can be the way to build a legacy and find real balance.”

For Patsy Anderson (Artsci’75), a member of the Order of Canada and the recipient of numerous awards recognizing her volunteerism, philanthropy with her husband has “enriched our lives unbelievably. We are lucky to have the opportunity to give, and tried to engage our children, when they were younger, in talking about priorities to support,” she says.