Another Women’s Giving Circle is Born: Waterbury Giving Circle Makes Inaugural Grants

Butterflies with Voices is one of the inaugural grantees of the newly formed Women’s Giving Circle serving Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills, Connecticut. This photo depicts staff members from Butterflies with Voices helping Women’s Giving Circle members learn about their project at a circle meeting. (Photo courtesy of Connecticut Community Foundation.)

While women’s giving circles are a growing phenomenon in the United States, we thought it would be interesting to touch down in the real world with a giving circle that has newly arrived on the scene: Waterbury, Connecticut’s Inaugural Women’s Giving Circle. 

This new giving circle formed in 2017 and is housed at the Connecticut Community Foundation, a foundation serving 21 towns in the Waterbury/Litchfield area. For its first year of grantmaking, it gave out $34,000 in grants to seven community groups working to empower women and girls.

“It’s a thrill to award the first grants from the Women’s Giving Circle—made possible by the generosity of nearly 90 women in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills!” said Kathy Bower of Southbury, chair of the Women’s Giving Circle, in a recent press release on the grants. “We are energized and activated, and are driven to make lives better for women and girls and uplift local communities in the process. Our hearts and doors are open to welcoming more people into the Women’s Giving Circle and building on the momentum—and impact—of our first year.”

Women’s giving circles, new and growing ones like the Waterbury Women’s Giving Circle, and more established ones like Dining for Women, are bringing more women into the first-hand practice of grantmaking. This new giving circle in Connecticut requires an annual contribution of at least $500, and entitles you to participate in activities and events, and also to cast your vote at the annual meeting to determine how the circle’s funds will be given out in grants. You can join with the $500 on your own, or bring together friends to share in the $500 fee. Either way, the $500 membership means you will have one vote in the grantmaking process.

How This New Giving Circle Fits into the Connecticut Philanthropy Landscape

According to a report in HartfordBusiness.com, Connecticut saw a decline in the number of foundations and individuals making charitable donations and grants in 2015. Despite this, however, giving for the year increased by 11% (about $500 million) that year. The bulk of 2015 increase reportedly came from bequests, which increased from $90 million to $330 million that year. In 2014, giving declined by 3.2%.

Like in many states, Connecticut philanthropy professionals are concerned that the Trump Tax (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) will deter giving, since it takes away the itemized deduction from those who formerly met the threshold at $12,000. By moving the threshold for taking the charitable deduction up to $24,000 per household, many philanthropy analysts are predicting that the loss of itemization could reduce the tax income subsidy for giving by 33% and shave off millions, if not billions, of philanthropy dollars in the process.

Despite uncertainty in giving trends, for women in the Waterbury and Litchfield communities, the desire to give collectively has turned into a significant amount of grantmaking at the grassroots. These grants are going to funding-starved community efforts to help women and girls develop into healthy members of society.

Check out the grantees to see how these giving circle dollars will enhance the lives of women and girls in greater Waterbury and Litchfield:

Butterflies with Voices was awarded $4,000 to support mentoring and leadership skills and personal empowerment workshops and activities for girls in Waterbury.

Naugatuck Valley Community College Foundation in Waterbury was awarded $10,000 to enhance the college experience and improve retention leading to graduation for a select group of women who, despite overwhelming challenges, demonstrate resilience and tenacity in furthering their education.

Pratt Nature Center in New Milford was awarded $1,980 to empower girls and women through nature based activities.

Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury was awarded $1,250 to support a 22-week small group prevention and treatment self-esteem enhancement program for girls 8-18 years-old. They will build life skills, connect to resources and develop positive relationships with peers and adults. A second grant for $3,250 was awarded to Safe Haven to support crisis services for survivors of sexual assault, including providing women and girls with opportunities to attend alternative therapy programs (yoga, salt caves and music and art).

Save Girls on F.Y.E.R. in Waterbury was awarded $4,000 to support the social-emotional and physical health of Waterbury Public School students via afterschool programs.

Waterbury Youth Services was awarded a $7,357 grant to support an afterschool club for 14 high school girls based on the nationally acclaimed Girls Who Code program. Girls will learn computer software coding in a fun and supportive environment.

Woodbury Public Library earned a $2,000 grant to help girls in grades 6-12 learn to code in a safe and supportive environment of peers and role models and learn to see themselves as computer scientists. The program is also based on the national Girls Who Code model.

FYI: I feel a personal affinity with Waterbury, since it was the city that my mother grew up in and a place where I have happy memories from my own childhood, going to visit my grandparents there. Congratulations to the new Women’s Giving Circle, and here’s to many years of growth.

To learn more about the Women’s Giving Circle at Connecticut Community Foundation, visit www.conncf.org/womens-giving.

Related:

An Unusual Women’s Giving Circle in Boston Fuels Social Change Globally

Potluck Power: How This Women’s Giving Circle Feeds Global Gender Equity

Ripple Effect: Longtime Expert to Cultivate Giving Circles Worldwide

Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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