Young Harris College President Cathy Cox spoke Thursday at the WomenSource Brown Bag Luncheon about the importance of giving back.
Cox said women have the opportunity to produce positive change in their communities by contributing to organizations in the right way.
"We need to teach women to be active philanthropists, not passive philanthropists," said Cox, a former Georgia secretary of state and 2006 candidate for governor.
The event was held at the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center.
Cox presented information about how Americans donate money. Individuals make up the majority of donations to charitable organizations, Cox said. There is a common misconception that large foundations and corporations do most of the giving, when in fact 75 percent of charitable dollars come from individuals.
"If you're out to raise significant money, it's going to come from people," Cox said.
Cox said people also assume that the majority of donations come from the wealthy, though the most charitable dollars come from people who make $50,000 per year or less.
"Those proportionally are the biggest givers," Cox said. "They are influenced by helping people meet their basic needs."
Women and men also tend to give differently, Cox said. More women give to charitable organizations, but men tend to give more money.
"Women tend to spread their gifts around," Cox said. "Men maybe give to two or three causes but give larger gifts."
Cox said the world has changed rapidly over the last few decades for women, allowing them to change the way they think about philanthropy.
"Women are working more today," Cox said. "We're gaining education, and with that education has come earnings."
Cox said this increased income has given women the ability to give to charitable causes they are interested in and that have a greater impact on society.
"As women move up the ladder in all kinds of areas, as they move up to the highest levels of the workplace, as women move up the ladder in government, women really need to step up the ladder of leadership and influence in philanthropy by becoming stronger donors, by becoming active philanthropists," Cox said.
Cox said women need to move away from traditional philanthropic activities like planning galas and think about activities such as giving circles, in which a group of friends can pool their funds to make one large, meaningful donation to an organization.
"If we care about issues, if we have a passion for a certain cause, if we see needs in our communities that our not being met, we as women need to stop waiting on somebody else to fix it," Cox said. "We need to put our money where our mouths are and influence society in a positive way through the positive power of our own money."
Cox started her career in Gainesville as a crime reporter at The Times before returning to school to get her law degree. After working for several years as an attorney, Cox she served in the Georgia House of Representatives.
She was elected in 1998 as the first female secretary of state in Georgia. She has been the president of Young Harris College since 2007.
WomenSource is a nonprofit resource for women in the community. The organization holds a Brown Bag Lunch Series, which features speakers on topics relevant to women’s lives.