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Experience the Grassroots Power of Women’s Giving Circles

Grab Your Gals and Make A Difference

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash
Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

February 13 is Galentine’s Day. This relatively new and unofficial holiday was founded by the fictional Leslie Knope from the Parks and Recreation television series. Galentine’s Day is an appreciation of female friendship. Women everywhere will celebrate with delicious breakfasts and love notes expressing gratitude for loyal sisterhood. We will come together in an enthusiastic embrace of the female bond.

When women spend time together, we find support. We become empowered. We have fun. That’s why so many women-only groups – from fitness to crafting to advocacy – are thriving.

As a natural “joiner”, I belong to a variety of women’s organizations including several associations for female nonprofit leaders and fundraisers, a women’s writing group, a women-only community service organization, and a Danish Sisterhood lodge. I’m even in an all-female pizza club. Through each of these I learn new skills and enjoy new experiences while strengthening my network of female colleagues and friends.

The women’s group that has the biggest impact on my community is also my personal favorite: the “giving circle”. In a giving circle, members join together to pool their resources and make a substantial collective donation to a charity chosen by the group. My giving circle, for instance, meets quarterly to select a new charity to support with a $25,000 donation. We’ve supported organizations whose missions are literacy promotion, cancer care support, diapers for low-income families, teacher supplies, and much more.

The brilliance of the giving circle is in its simplicity. Most giving circles resist overly cumbersome administrative processes, instead relying on the collective wisdom and passion of the group to direct their impact. When I’m in the room hearing my fellow members talk about the causes that matter to them, I buzz with hope. Together, we learn more about our community and hear firsthand about what touches women’s hearts. It’s a special, extraordinary experience every time.

As a member of a giving circle, I am exposed to a variety of perspectives. Giving circles are becoming more diverse in terms of socioeconomic status, religion, and race. Newer members are more engaged in social change and think strategically about their impact. For this reason, giving circles support a broad spectrum of organizations and causes. At each meeting of my giving circle I learn about at least one new organization I wasn’t previously aware of. It’s an incredible way to deepen my own understanding of the strong web of support agencies that stabilize my community.

From a practical standpoint, I’m in a giving circle to amplify my impact. As a member of the group, I contribute $100 each quarter. When selecting the winning charity, we can make a gift of up to $25,000 in a single night – far more than I could make on my own. By joining forces with other caring women, I see what’s possible when we each pitch in a modest contribution and commit to making a considerable collective difference.

Giving circles have quickly gained traction. In the last decade alone, the number of giving circles in the US tripled. Moreover, they’re making a huge difference, contributing an estimated $1 billion and counting. These crucial funds advance important nonprofit missions, and the money typically remains within local communities. In terms of broadening access to resources, giving circles often award funding to organizations that are too small to qualify for traditional grants.

To be sure, women are already important drivers of philanthropy. They are more likely to give – and give more – than men. Women are often the deciders of household charitable giving. So why the need for giving circles if we’re already charitable champions on our own?

The Collective Giving Research Group asserts that “giving circle members give more money and time, give more strategically, and are more engaged in civic and political activities compared to donors not in giving circles.” Being part of a giving circle means having a roomful of great minds thinking hard about how we can make the greatest difference together. And from my experience, it’s more enjoyable than donating on one’s own. Charitable giving becomes not just more impactful, but far more fun.

This Galentine’s Day, take your sisterhood to the next level. Grab your best gals and plan how you can make a collective difference in your community. Join a giving circle or start one. By leveraging the bonds of friendship, open yourselves up to experience the joy of helping the organizations you love, together.

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