When you look at the technology that’s powering philanthropy today, it’s really quite amazing. But technology doesn’t just happen. It has to be built, tested and continuously enhanced—and that takes smart, dedicated people.
Take our own in-house product team for example. They’ve developed one simple, streamlined platform where you can manage all your foundation activities in just a few clicks (or taps from your phone). Grants can be made in four easy steps. Dispersed families and foundation members can collaborate anytime, anywhere. Reports, board books, tax filings and more are all easily accessible and beautifully organized. And it’s all in the spirit of doing good in the world.
It’s this idea that inspired us to create a new Tech for Good Series where we’ll share the latest tech news and features that are impacting the philanthropic sector. In this first issue, we’re celebrating Women’s History Month and passing the mic over to the women who are playing a key role in shaping the technology that’s propelling philanthropy forward.
Stats & Facts
According to this year’s Council on Foundations Grantmaker’s salary report, the philanthropic field overwhelmingly consists of people who self-identify as female. In general, almost 77% of the nearly 10,000 respondents were women. Interestingly, the types of foundations and the titles they held varied greatly between leadership and administrative positions. Here at Foundation Source, we’ve seen a 32% increase in women in leadership roles among clients, a 26% increase in women grantors and a 76% increase in dollars women have granted since 2019.
“I come from tech, and I was very used to using tech for sales support and keeping track of things. I found that using Foundation Source’s tools made it very easy for us to track the applications for grants, and what the statuses of those were. It also made the reporting very easy, and that also is making the follow up on those grants very informational. You can throw money out into the universe all you want, but until you know that you’re doing it with meaning, it doesn’t matter. I found that the tools that were available to us through Foundation Source were very helpful to us.” – Lori Cushman, President, Justamere Foundation
When we dig down into the technical positions that use grantmaking software, this pattern stays largely the same with over two-thirds of the grants management positions being held by women (the CTO title was an exception with only 32% identifying as women). Comparing these numbers to the overall percentage of women in the workforce, the average percentage is 26%—almost the reverse of what we are seeing in the philanthropic sector.
The philanthropic space has long been a place where women have thrived and been recognized for the power of their purse. And their philanthropic influence extends further than the dollars they give.
Meet the Players
Paula Lentoni has been a Grants Manager for over 20 years. She is an active member of the Grants Managers Network (GMN), which later became PEAK.
FS: As someone who started one of the first affinity groups focusing on philanthropists who use technology as the center of their jobs, how do you think women have impacted the philanthropic technology sector?
Lentoni: As a Grants Manager, I have worked with numerous platforms during my 20 years. I have been a part of GMN (now PEAK) for as long as that and I have had the opportunity to not only work with phil-tech platforms but also influence their development through user groups and beta testing. The philanthropic sector is highly skewed toward women staff, and the tech side has followed this same pattern.
Director of Product Management
Coreena Schultz, our Director of Program Management, is a philanthropic technical leader who is leading the expansion of our technology offerings. We caught up with her to check-in on what it’s like to be a tech woman in philanthropy.
FS: How did you get started working in technology?
Schultz: Believe it or not, my first real experience in technology was through educational publishing. We were one of the first publishers to build an eBook platform from the ground up and I became a product manager before I knew what that was. From there, I was recruited to an engineering consultancy firm where I helped build a task management software and a platform to prevent cyber bullying. I quickly earned my scrum master certification and never looked back.
FS: What is it like now being in the philanthropic sector?
Schultz: I was looking for jobs in the philanthropic space and this was a great opportunity to be a part of it and use my tech-focused skills. Now that I am at Foundation Source, I find it so rewarding. Our clients make the world a better place with their charitable giving, and it feels good to play even the smallest part in that. Also, it is so great to learn about our clients, their missions, and the stories behind what they do.
Founder of Veterans Collaborative
Grants Administrator, Tides Foundation
Natalie Worthan is an expert in the philanthropic and technical space. With over two decades of experience under her belt, she has worked with numerous fundraising and grantmaking platforms. She is the Founder of Veterans Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that serves veterans, service members, and their families by leveraging philanthropy to strengthen access to vital support and opportunity.
FS: How did you first get involved in technology?
Worthan: My first experience with philanthropy tech was in my first development role at a regional museum. This was over twenty years ago, but there was a system and process that made our job of connecting with patrons, donors, and partners efficient. Even though the organization was relatively small, our entire team (executives, program staff, finance, development, down to the gift shop) used this database in some form. I have worked in four different CRM donor databases through the years, and one thing remains true—you only get out what you put in. Technology is essential for strategic growth and organizational cohesiveness and continuity, especially in the age of remote/hybrid work.
FS: Why do you think the philanthropic sector has been a supportive space for women to excel in technology?
Worthan: Women have naturally been in the driver’s seat of philanthropy by championing change around issues and matters of the heart, and women have adapted to the growth and development of this field to bring others along for the greater good. Technology is a part of the evolution of philanthropy, and now we have the tools to be more strategic and thoughtful in our communications and engagements, which builds capacity. It is important to note that women hold about seventy percent of all nonprofit positions. Separately, tech is an emerging field, and women hold only a quarter of jobs in this industry. As I reflect on my experiences, I have consulted with or been employed by dozens of NGOs over the last twenty years, and all but two have had their technology managed and maintained by women. The majority of the staff of these organizations have all been primarily diverse females. I have worked with women who are experts in CRM databases, but generally had no formal degree or education—just training and experience. Women have changed the face of philanthropy, not only through service but also giving, so it seems natural that 1) women in the philanthropic sector would have more opportunities to learn tech because it plays a part in most roles and they hold most of these positions; and 2) women in tech would find a fulfilling and rewarding career in the nonprofit sector because there is a demand as organizations incorporate and prioritize technology as an essential component to growth.
Director of Product Management
It’s hard to imagine where Foundation Source would be without the contributions of Peggy Jacobsen, our Director of Product Management. Peggy works with our engineering team to design new features and changes to our Foundation Source products to help our clients manage their foundations efficiently and effectively. We wanted to get her perspective on what it’s like being a woman working in phil-tech.
FS: How did you get started working in phil-tech?
Jacobsen: I originally worked in accounting prior to Foundation Source. I was given an opportunity to be trained as a developer and I jumped at it. I worked as a developer and database administrator for many years then jumped over to the product management side.
FS: What is it like now being in the philanthropic sector?
Jacobsen: For me (and I think for many women), it’s about making a difference. I was previously with a very large financial services firm and knew I wanted a change. Working at Foundation Source and providing solutions for our clients is all about making a difference in the world. With the advancement of technology and online services in the philanthropy sector, it is a great space for the combination of women in technology (who are interested in philanthropy) to be able to make that difference in both spaces.
The philanthropic space has long served as a place where women have thrived in a variety of roles, including technology. The influence of many voices and inclusion that varying perspectives bring to building the technology that makes philanthropy happen can be seen in the next generation of platforms being built. Inclusive language, workflows, open technology, and sector-lifting ideas are being operationalized by women leading the charge and working in the philanthropic tech sector.
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