The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on a new nearly two million dollar grant whose goal is to “advance actionable, global research on women’s giving to inform and equip donors and nonprofits.”
The funding will fuel WPI’s ongoing research on domestic and global women’s giving, and empower organizations, donors and fundraisers to put these research insights into practice. Since 2015, WPI has conducted research on gender and philanthropy that helps inform the foundation’s Giving By All initiative, which is focused on growing giving and helping donors give more effectively and strategically.
On July 16, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute hosted a live Q&A with Sara Lomelin of Philanthropy Together, to discuss the ways philanthropy can be democratized, empowered, and fueled by diversity. In light of current pressing issues like the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19, WPI and Philanthropy Together seek to answer the question, “How can giving circles transform the future of trust-based giving?”
WPI Director Jeannie Sager kicked off the conversation by encouraging the participants to share their locations – people chimed in from all over the US and beyond.
Sager introduced the concept: “For too long, philanthropy has been seen as an exclusive club. Yet today, our country is experiencing a drastic reckoning… Who is called a philanthropist?”
By any measure, giving circles are one of the biggest growth areas in philanthropy. It’s no accident that giving circles are heavily female, and women of color are involved in giving circles at much higher rates than they are in traditional modes of philanthropic giving.
A simple giving circle definition from Philanthropy Together: “Giving Circles are groups of all shapes and sizes collaborating for change: like-minded individuals come together to pool their funds, share and discuss the issues that matter to them, and decide together where to give their money, time, and talents.” Giving circles enable individuals to leverage modest individual donations into a critical mass. They are by definition participatory, and the power of the collective provides individuals greater input and influence than were they giving in isolation.
Philanthropy Together places special emphasis on the role of traditionally underrepresented communities, noting:
Beth Ellen Holimon’s mission throughout most of her career has been helping women. For the past five years, she has led Dining for Women, dedicated to eradicating poverty in the developing world for girls and women and achieving gender equity, using a unique model for women’s collective giving. DFW educates approximately 8500 member donors on the underlying issues contributing to women’s inequality. Under Holimon’s leadership as President and CEO, the global giving circle has grown to 500 chapters throughout the U.S.
Each month, DFW selects a charity to receive funding though a rigorous vetting process. The organization’s grant making is guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Holimon emphatically asks: “What woman around the world doesn’t want their children to have the very best education, be provided with safe birth options, address climate change, safeguard themselves and their children from domestic violence and acknowledge issues of aging?”
On December 3, 2019, California Senator Kamala Harris announced her decision to drop out of the 2020 presidential race.
“I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life,” Harris wrote in a Medium article, which was also sent out to supporters through email and social media. “My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.”
The Harris campaign’s inability to fund itself raises important questions about the future of political campaigns in the United States. Could the Harris campaign have been saved by a last-minute large-dollar donation?
More is going on in the giving circle arena than ever before, it appears. As those of you know who have been following along at Philanthropy Women, giving circles have increased dramatically over the past ten years and now are poised for an even bigger impact.
The giving circle co-design team, which consists of leaders from Amplifier, Asian Women’s Giving Circle, Catalist, Community Investment Network, and Latino Community Foundation, recently announced that they have secured a $2 million investment from anchor funding partner, theBill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With this support, they are working to fully launch “a suite of tools, programming, and support for networks, individual circles, host organizations, and other stakeholders,” according to an email to the community.
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 (i.e. giving circles) 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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.