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. 

Laura Midgley and Bo Lee, Co-Chairs of Catalist, an organization doing groundbreaking work to organize and empower collective giving. (Photo credit: Aki Shibuya.)

Collaboration and connection are essential elements of collective grantmaking, so every 18 months, the women of Catalist convene to be inspired and learn new tools in philanthropy. In addition to national conferences, Catalist energizes and educates philanthropists year-round through webinars, online forums, and one-to-one mentoring to foster informed grantmaking.

Our next convening is in Seattle for PowerUP!: The Spark that Ignites Change on February 23-25, 2020. The focus of the 2020 conference is equity in grantmaking and inclusivity for our organizations. During our sessions, we will address the myriad ways equity and inclusion can be promoted and experienced in organizational work, the tools necessary for meaningful inclusion, and challenges that women leaders of affiliate organizations experience. At each conference, the host sets the theme and proudly leverages the local talent from the host city. This year’s theme is a direct offshoot of the work embraced by the conference host, the Washington Women’s Foundation (WaWF), which is celebrating 25 years of grantmaking and innovation. 

The Power Up! Conference will be held in Seattle, Washington from February 23-25. (Image credit: Catalist)

Our plenary speakers and breakout sessions will inspire and prepare Catalist leaders to return to their communities, powered-up and informed for more effective philanthropy. The conference will open with Tricia Raikes, co-founder of the Raikes Foundation and a member of the Washington Women’s Foundation. She will address how the Raikes Foundation has taken a hard look at its own practices to reduce bias and increase equity in funding. This keynote will launch the remainder of the conference programming focused on how collective giving can be better prepared to embrace equity in grantmaking and become a more inclusive form of philanthropy. 

“The goal of the conference is to engage more women in collective giving and prepare them to be more effective in their grantmaking,” said conference co-chair Laura Midgley and Catalist Board Member and co-founder. “We’re incredibly proud to offer a diverse line-up of plenary experts and leaders on the topics of social justice, trust-based philanthropy, and racial bias,” added conference co-chair Bo Lee and WaWF and Catalist Board Member. They include: 

Merf Ehman, ED of Columbia Legal Services, 

Ijeoma Oluo, author of the NYTimes bestseller: So You Want To Talk About Race

Vashti Rutledge, Cincinnati Director of the Family Independence Initiative 

Vu Le, ED of Rainier Valley Corp, author of the influential blog: NonprofitAF

Pia Infantes, co-Executive Director of the Whitman Institute

We invite you to read more about all the speakers here

At Catalist, we also learn from one another. The conference breakout sessions will feature our affiliates’ groundbreaking work in grantmaking, leadership, innovation, membership, communications, and education.

Whether groups are independently staffed 501(c)(3)s, volunteer-led giving circles, or staffed with the help of community foundations, Catalist aims to accelerate our affiliates’ effectiveness. Research indicates collective giving has enormous untapped potential to increase philanthropic participation, promote civic engagement and address community needs. These two reports from the University of Washington Evans School and the Collective Giving Research Group prove that women are effectively addressing community issues by learning and funding together. 

The February conference is open to anyone interested in learning more about building inclusive organizations that increase equity in our communities. Check out PowerUP! here. We are thrilled that generous support for PowerUP! has come from The Raikes Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Seattle Foundation, Microsoft Alumni Network and The Seattle Times, as well as individuals. This support accelerates the power of collective giving and helps us effectively invest in our communities. For the first time, we also have tech platforms that market to non-profits attending to demonstrate their capabilities. Confirmed thus far are InLieu and The Learning by Giving Foundation.

Below is a sample of the breakout sessions that will continue the conversations on reducing bias in grantmaking, building trust with grantees and the community, and increasing ways we can be inclusive as givers.

Education: Blueprint for Impact – Learn how one community foundation is creating a new Blueprint for Impact by focusing on eliminating the structural inequities that prevent our nation’s growing racial and economic gap from closing. 

Grantmaking: Building More Equitable Relationships with Grantees – Responses to today’s complex problems will not come solely from philanthropists, but in partnership with individuals who bring their lived experience and voices to the process. 

Membership + Communications: Growing Younger: Strategies for Making Membership More Age-Inclusive – How does age-inclusion fit into your organization’s goals? 

Innovation + Leadership: Participatory Philanthropy: Staying Relevant in an Evolving Environment – The changing cultural, political and social environment is motivating collective giving organizations to shift their emphasis to remain relevant and effective in addressing society’s systemic issues. 

Register here for Power Up!

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Kiersten Marek

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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