Expanding the Ripple Effect: Giving Circles Convene on Equity, Inclusion

Editor’s Note: The following piece is co-authored by Laura Midgley and Bo Lee, board members of Catalist and co-chairs of the Catalist’s upcoming conference. Catalist is an innovative organization working to enhance collective giving by and for women.

For the past decade, Catalist has supported the creation, development, and expansion of women’s collective giving groups, sometimes referred to as giving circles. Open to all women’s collective grantmaking organizations, the network connects and inspires a fast-growing movement of community-minded women who recognize the exponential power of collectively sharing of the experience of giving for social change. The network currently has over 75 affiliates nationwide. Globally, with the addition of groups in Melbourne and London, the movement’s combined giving is over $125 million and has involved more than 17,000 women since 1995. 

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Women’s Giving Circles In the News

The Philadelphia Inquirer just published an excellent in-depth piece on giving circles, and it prompted me to do a scan of the women’s giving circle activity out there.

As the Inquirer article explains, more giving in the circle form is happening now than ever, and much of it is being driven by women.

My favorite line from the Philly Inquirer piece is from Paula Liang:

“The collective giving movement has grown slowly but steadily over 25 years,” says Paula Liang, chair of Catalist, a national network of 75 women’s giving circles that represent 20,000 donors, “and now has reached what lots of us believe is a tipping point.”

Orchid Giving Circle, a Texas Women’s Foundation group, recently granted $219,500 to 14 community organizations in Texas. (Photo Credit: Orchid Giving Circle)

As the article reminds us, giving circles have quadrupled over the last decade, and the majority of the activity in the movement is women-led. Much of it is also focused on giving to women and girls, such as Project W, the giving circle featured in the Philly Inquirer article.

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Giving Through Celebration: Batonga Foundation Hosts NYC Benefit

One of the best ways to leverage support for a community is by celebrating its culture. Angélique Kidjo and the Batonga Foundation seek to amplify their campaign for women and girls in West Africa through a one-of-a-kind benefit dinner hosted later this month in New York City.

Angelique Kidjo invites YOU to a night of West African flavor in New York City! (Source: Batonga Foundation)

Kidjo, a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer and musician, was born in Benin and grew up steeped in the rich musical and social culture of West Africa. She attended school at a time when girls’ education was not considered socially acceptable. In answer to taunts from boys in her classes, Kidjo would shout back, “Batonga!,” an invented word that has since translated into Kidjo’s music and philanthropy.

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New Microgrants Cultivate Collective Giving

Members of the co-design team working to grow the power and amplification of giving circles. (Photo credit: Catalist)

On August 20, 2019, an initiative to connect and catalyst the field of giving circles announced their intention to donate $32,000 to collective giving organizations. The funds, distributed in thirteen microgrants ranging from $500 to $5,000, will go toward circles and networks that “showcase, scale, strengthen, and sustain the field of collective giving. 

This initiative is born out of a yearlong co-design process spearheaded by the organizations Amplifier, Asian Women’s Giving Circle, Catalist, Community Investment Network, and Latino Community Foundation. 

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Refresh and Pour Into One Another: Black Women Giving in Omaha

Grant recipients for the IBBGives first round of grants in 2018. (Photo credit: IBBGives)

Editor’s Note: This post was written by the I Be Black Girl Collective, and is shared on Philanthropy Women during Black Philanthropy Month in order to highlight local efforts across the country to grow Black Philanthropy.

“We know that the people most affected by an issue are not the people making the decisions around solutions,” said Ashlei Spivey, co-founder of I Be Black Girl, a collective of Black women in Omaha, Nebraska. “IBBGives is a space that allows everyday Black women, no matter their association, to invest in their community.”

I Be Black Girl (IBBG) is a collective for Black women and girls in the Omaha metro; its founding is modeled after the work of bell hooks. IBBG organically came to fruition after a Facebook post by Ashlei Spivey that called for Black women to get together to refresh and pour into one another. Based on the overwhelming response, IBBG formally became a collective in 2017, offering networking sessions and leadership development programming. 

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Discussion of Unstoppable Giving Circles Keeps On Expanding

Ms. Magazine, one of the oldest and wisest feminist publications in the world, recently shared work that originated from Philanthropy Women. (Image Credit: Ms. Magazine)

It’s great news when one of the oldest and largest feminist publishers decides to share your micropublishing work. This week, Ms. Magazine shared an article by Julia Travers on the growing giving circle movement.

I feel like I could write a whole memoir on Ms. Magazine and its influence in my life, but I’ll save that for another day. Right now, I just want to thank this most venerable feminist media institution for their support, and acknowledge Julia Travers for her unique talent in writing about this subject.

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WomensWork RI Opens Stage to Women Creators Over 40

Lynne Collinson, Creative Director, WomensWork Theatre Collaborative. (photo credit: Vince Petronio)

Great news for theatre buffs in Rhode Island: a new collaborative, formed a year ago, is now taking off to produce more dramatic works by women. Named WomensWork Theatre Collaborative and headed by Creative Director Lynne Collinson, they will present a trio of plays about madness in 2019 and 2020.

WomensWorkRI Theatre Collaborative describes itself as “a creative collective designed to promote theatrical opportunities for women of all ages. A major mission focus is to provide leadership roles – on and off stage — for women over the age of 40.”

“WomensWork has chosen three plays – all written by women — that examine the ways madness manifests itself in women’s lives, whether from the strain of caring for a parent with a deteriorating mind, the seismic change brought about by midlife crisis, or the daily dread faced by women duty-bound to risk their lives for a tyrant,” said Collison, in an announcement rolling out the slate of plays to be produced over the next year.

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Founded in Diversity, Texas Women’s Foundation Expands with Participatory Approach

Roslyn Dawson Thompson, President and CEO, Texas Women’s Foundation. (Photo credit: TWF)

Here in the Northeast, we don’t tend to envision Texas as having a culture of diversity and women’s empowerment. But Texas is actually one of the most diverse states in the union. Currently, 68% of women ages 15 to 24 are women of color. The reality for the biggest state in the union is that the minority is the majority among young people. Texas is also home to one of the country’s largest women’s foundations, the Texas Women’s Foundation (TWF). Previously known as the Dallas Women’s Foundation, in 2018, it rebranded as a statewide endeavor with plans to increase its impact across all regions of the Lone Star State.

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Power Up! Women Collective Givers Meet In Washington, 2020

Image: Catalist members Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Laura Midgley, Colleen Willoughby, Jenny Berg, Paula Liang, Virginia Mills, Susan Benford and Hali Lee (Photo credit: Catalist)

Big news for giving circle members and fans: The Catalist 2020 National Conference will be held from Feb. 23 to the 25 in Seattle, Washington. Catalist is a network and umbrella organization for women’s collective-giving grantmaking organizations. The conference will be hosted at the Motif Hotel by the Washington Women’s Foundation (WaWF), a Catalist member organization that will be celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The WaWF is a fitting host for the 2020 conference, because it was launched by Catalist founding board member Colleen Willoughby in 1995. And, in 2009, Willoughby brought together collective giving leaders from across the U.S., spurring the creation of the Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network (WCGN), now Catalist.

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We Are Unstoppable: Giving Circles Organize Into a Movement

Marcia Quinones, member of East Bay Latina Giving Circle. (Photo credit: Latino Community Foundation)

Giving circles bring people together to practice collective philanthropy. In the same spirit, representatives of giving circles and giving circle networks across the U.S. are now convening to build power. In April 2019, 82 members of dozens of giving circles in the U.S. met for two days in Seattle, Washington, to share stories, hopes and plans for building a stronger giving circle movement. Women are playing a leading role in these efforts.

Giving Circles Grow and Set Goals

Giving circles allow friends, neighbors, families and people with religious, civil, cultural and other connections to learn about issues of shared concern and decide where to donate their money. They are usually created by women and/or members of ethnic minority, LGBTQ or other marginalized groups — those who typically hold a lesser share of power and money in the U.S. — though many open their doors to anyone with common values. Women make up most of their members.

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