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  • Wednesday, January 20, 2021 7:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Susan Benford
    Chair-Elect, Philanos
    Past President, The Philanthropy Connection, Boston, MA (2016-2019)

    Philanos promotes the global initiative for the collective giving movement through Philanthropy  Together. 

    Philanos is proud to be one of five networks, along with Amplifier, Asian Women Giving Circle, Community Investment Network, and Latino Community Foundation, that founded Philanthropy Together (PhT) in April 2020. Its goals are to:

    • expand the number of global giving groups to 3,000 (from an estimated 2,000);
    • involve 350,000 individuals (from 150,000 currently); and
    • foster $1 billion of collectively made grants within 5 years.

    PhT’s global initiatives will bolster all networks like Philanos as well as individual giving circles. So what does PhT do and how is it different from Philanos?

    Philanthropy Together intends to democratize and diversify philanthropy around the world by incubating giving circles and supporting existing ones.  It has four strategic, global focus areas:

    1. Showcase: Expand awareness about giving circles (listen to PhT’s Executive Director, Sara Lomelin, discuss “What Big Philanthropy Can Learn From Giving Circles”)
    2. Scale: Strategically grow circles and circle membership (learn about Launchpad, the giving circle incubator that provides 5 weeks of virtual training for those who wish to start a giving circle and Launchpad for Hosts for those, like community foundations, interested in hosting one);
    3. Strengthen: Build capacity, leadership, and knowledge sharing (discover the “Community Calendar” in which giving circles can share their virtual events and learn of others, and watch for the first global giving circle directory in early 2021); and
    4. Sustain: Support ongoing vibrancy and effectiveness of the field.

    One way PhT will promote sustainability and vibrancy is through its We Give Summit  throughout the month of May 2021.  The purpose of this celebration of collective giving is elevating the movement and spawning collaborations across networks and giving groups.  If you have ideas for breakout sessions around perennial topics of interest like member retention, strategic planning and Board development, please send them to sbenford@philanos.org.

    Because Philanos had to cancel its planned PowerUP! in-person event for September 2021, we will be active presenters (and attendees) in the “We Give Summit”.  Plan on joining us!

    Also, PhT is creating an international, searchable directory of giving circles.  Each profile will cover the basics about each giving group: its mission, issue focus area, membership, dollars raised and invested, and more. Don’t miss this opportunity to raise the visibility (and impact) of your group and giving circles in general.

    Join Philanthropy Together on January 28 at 4 pm Pacific/7 pm Eastern as giving groups around the world complete their profiles together and meet each other for the first time.  Please register here, which also puts you in the running to win:

    • $1,000 for your giving group;
    • A specialized media kit for your giving circle and a 45 minute consultation about your social media strategy; and
    • Swag bags from PhT and Grapevine, a Philanos sponsor and the platform on which the directory is being constructed.

    If you’ve questions about the directory or the profile party, contact PhT’s Director of Engagement, Tyeshia Wilson (tyeshia@philanthropytogether.org) or Philanos Chair Paula Liang (pliang@philanos.org).

    See you there!


  • Wednesday, January 13, 2021 9:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz
    Member of the Philanos Communications Committee
    Executive Director of Philanos affiliate member,
    the
     Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County, Maryland 

    Trust-Based Philanthropy

    Giving circles and collective giving groups are working to address power in philanthropy. Why? Because there are times that funders inadvertently hinder nonprofits doing the work they know best.

    According to the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project (the Project), this can slow down progress, perpetuate inefficiency, and obstruct nonprofit growth and innovation. Trust-Based Philanthropy reimagines that dynamic. Infused by core values of power-sharing, equity, humility, transparency, curiosity, and collaboration, the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project believes philanthropic efforts will be more successful and rewarding if funders approach each grantee relationship as an ongoing partnership rather than a one-time transaction.

    The Project outlines a trust-based approach that relies on six interrelated principles which, when practiced together, can help alleviate power imbalances:

    1. Provide Multi-Year, Unrestricted Funding
    2. Do the Homework
    3. Simplify & Streamline Paperwork
    4. Be Transparent & Responsive
    5. Solicit & Act on Feedback
    6. Offer Support Beyond the Check

    If you were able to join the Philanos monthly webinar series on October 13 on Women's Giving Circles & Trust-Based Philanthropy, you heard an introduction to trust-based philanthropy for giving circles - what it is and how it can be reflected in collective giving. 

    The webinar presented its principles and practices, the reasons for its emergence, and the impact it has had on the social sector. We heard from two perspectives: Colby Swettberg, Chief Executive Office of the Silver Lining Institute in Boston spoke from the nonprofit perspective; and Philip Li, President and CEO of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation in New York City, spoke from the funder perspective. In addition to sharing their experiences, they helped us understand how we might apply trust-based philanthropy principles to the collective giving model – how we educate our members, how we evaluate applications and organizations, and how we remain open to supporting organizations we may not know very well.

    Philanos affiliate member Impact 100 Seattle is committed to incorporating trust-based philanthropy principles and practices throughout their grantmaking philosophy.

    In fact, they proudly and publicly state their grantmaking philosophy as believing in trust-based philanthropy to drive enduring improvements in the Puget Sound Region. As a somewhat new organization, they are working hard to address some of the unhealthy power dynamics in traditional philanthropy. 

    Here are their grantmaking principles:

           Trust-Based Philanthropy. Impact Seattle 100 members see trust-based philanthropy as a process to address long-standing power imbalances and increase equity in philanthropy. They believe this approach requires funders to build relationships with grantee organizations through trust-based practices and behaviors.

           Partner for Transformative Change. This approach is based on their desire for transformative change – or addressing the root causes of issues and inequities as opposed to the symptoms. They want to support organizations that work in partnership with others toward collective impact and those that build power among those who may lack it.

           Embrace Risk. Impact Seattle 100 members are committed to embracing risk, by rewarding and encouraging new ways of thinking and acting to increase resilience and impact. 

           Listen, Learn and Evolve. They are committed to listening, learning and evolving, by recognizing the learning journey they are on with other members, and their partners.

    “We are offering support beyond the check ... we want to be an organization that grants with curiosity” said Jennifer Larsen, Impact Seattle 100 Vice President. “We worked hard to remain in a learning posture throughout the process and sustained an equitable process throughout.”

    The principles of Trust-Based Philanthropy have been important for funders across the country in general, and in particular the last ten months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Philanos affiliate member ninety-nine girlfriends has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by adapting their work to be responsive to the situation at hand in their community. As they state publicly on their website, “ninety-nine girlfriends plays a unique role in our region in connecting women in collective action and supporting nonprofits. All of us must pivot as the pandemic moves through our community ... ninety-nine girlfriends will play our role in ‘flattening the curve’ to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and the severity of its impact on our community.”

    Ninety-nine girlfriends has been vocal about leveraging best practices by philanthropic leaders across the country and highlighting Trust-Based Philanthropy principles to their philanthropic response to COVID-19. In fact, they have highlighted recommendations from the Council on Foundations and the Whitman Institute.

    The Council on Foundations created a Call to Action to guide philanthropy’s commitment during COVID-19, where over 600 organizations have signed.

    Among the recommendations are to:

            Loosen or eliminate restrictions on current grants.
            Make new grants as unrestricted as possible to provide maximum flexibility for nonprofits.
            Reduce what we ask of nonprofit partners e.g. site visits, reporting requirements and other demands on their time.
            Support grantee partners advocating for important public policy changes.

    COF’s recommendations are based on the work of the Whitman Institute, advocating for Trust-Based Philanthropy. There is much we will learn about the Trust-Based philanthropic response to COVID-19 in the months and years to come.

    Giving circles and collective giving groups across the country are increasingly listening, learning, and responding by incorporating Trust-Based Philanthropy principles and practices throughout their grantmaking philosophy and seeking to help alleviate power imbalances.

    And, Philanos is committed to being an ongoing resource and partner to our affiliate members across the country on the principles and practices of Trust-Based Philanthropy.

    Listen to Pia Infante & Vu Le's PowerUP! 2020 presentation here!

  • Monday, January 11, 2021 8:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Philanos proudly announces 11 of our affiliates were granted $1K to further their DEI practices.  

    Philanthropy Together made 25 grants of $1,000 each to organizations that had participated in PhT’s six-month Racial Equity Community of Practice.  Grants were made to attendees who had developed ideas about programming that would further their group’s DEI journey. The Philanos affiliates that were awarded are:

    • Anne Arundel Women Giving Together - MD, Giving Together - Chevy Chase MD, Impact Austin, Impact100 Philadelphia, ninety-nine girlfriends - Portland, OR, Women’s Giving Alliance - Jacksonville FL, and Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County - MD; each received funding to hire a trainer. Some will train their board, others their grants team, and some will train both board and members.
    • Impact100 Metro Denver, Impact100 South Jersey, Many Hands - DC and The Philanthropy Connection - Boston; each received funding to hire a facilitator or a coach to guide their DEI conversations.

    Explore Philanos DEI resources here!

  • Thursday, December 31, 2020 5:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Paula Liang, Chair, Philanos

    Spoiler Alert: It was extraordinary, just like all of their programming to date.

    Having been one of the original Co-Design team members whose mission was to  bring some infrastructure and support to the entire collective giving sector will, I believe, be one of the crowning achievements of my life.

    Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others, the five of us on that team took a leap of faith in the movement and each other: Felicia Harman of Amplifier, Hali Lee, founder of the Asian Women’s Giving Circle, Sara Lomelin of The Latino Community Foundation, Marsha Morgan, chair of the Community Investment Network, and myself.  We practiced radical transparency and decided early on that we wouldn’t be defined by “turf.”  Many philanthropic women sit at multiple tables. We aren’t in competition; we are in community.

    Now called Philanthropy Together, the initiative that we designed with input from more than 100 funders, leaders and members across the movement (men and women), launched on April 1, 2020.  I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that it felt like terrible timing in that moment, and we were all concerned about 18 months of work going up in the flames of a global pandemic. 

    We needn’t have worried.  The ED we hired, Sara Lomelin, (yes, an original member of the Co-Design team) and our amazing consultant, Isis Krause, who was Sara’s first hire, have the knowledge and the passion to push through many obstacles. They are also unhampered by an imposing structure, a large board and the expectations of hundreds of funders.  They hit the ground at a gallop and haven’t let up. 

    Their first two webinars, attended by hundreds, were all about the Black Lives Matter moment and philanthropy’s response. They featured Executive Directors of frontline organizations, answered crucial questions, and offered important “tips and tricks”. Two personal takeaways:

    • One consultant suggested that if it is difficult to diversify your giving circle because of your geography, think about how else you can help: where do you bank? Who do you employ as consultants, speakers, caterers, etc.?  You can support Black-owned businesses in many ways. I spoke with nascent groups in Vermont and Maine over the Summer, and this was helpful to them.
    • One session featured EDs of frontline organizations involved with the BLM movement.  One of them pointed out that “we” in the collective giving movement might be shocked by George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent fallout, but that none of them were surprised; they all knew it was just a matter of time and circumstance. Her appeal to us, and I’m paraphrasing because she was much more polite, was this: We’ve been doing this, and coordinating across organizations for a very long time. If you want to support our work, send a check. Don’t quibble about language, or nibble around the edges of the policy recommendations. As someone who can always come up with an opinion, it was a very powerful gut-check. 

    Following two outstanding webinars, Philanthropy Together found enough interest in these topics to host a six-month long Racial Equity Community of Practice, which was attended by dozens of staff, leaders and members of collective giving groups across the sector, including Susan Benford, Sandy Cook and myself and dozens of leaders of Philanos affiliates.  Marsha Morgan (who many of you will remember from her intro of Ijeoma Oluo at PowerUP!2020) and I recorded sessions for this Community of Practice (COP) and other organizations. A couple of takeaways:

    • Marsha asked me if there were affiliates who weren’t interested in “doing the work” of diversity, equity and inclusion. My response was “if they aren’t, they are being quiet about it. Everyone who came to Seattle wants to do the work. What they might not be ready for is the next step they have to take after they bring in diverse women. They have to let them lead.”  And in that moment, I realized that I was taking up space on at least two boards, which I will phase off of over the next several months, to make way for other voices. Stay tuned.
    • I learned that two of our affiliates, ninety-nine girlfriends of Portland, OR and Wood River Women’s Foundation in Ketcham, ID have morphed their language from DEI to JEDI: Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.  How cool is that?

    As the final act of the Racial Equity COP, Philanthropy Together announced that they had $25K available to grant to organizations whose leaders had been part of the cohort, and who had ideas about programming that would further their DEI journey.  It was incredibly fulfilling to have 11 of our Philanos affiliates win these $1K awards. Details:

    • Anne Arundel Women Giving Together, Giving Together of Chevy Chase, MD, Impact Austin, Impact100 Philadelphia, ninety-nine girlfriends of Portland, OR, Women’s Giving Alliance of Jacksonville, FL, and Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County, MD each received funding to hire a trainer. Some will train their board, others their grants team, and some will train both board and members.
    • Impact100 Metro Denver, Impact100 South Jersey, Many Hands, DC, The Philanthropy Connection of Boston, each received funding to hire a facilitator or a coach to guide their DEI conversations.

    I look forward to hearing stories about the impact of these small but meaningful grants. I also encourage all of you to add Philanthropy Together to your bookmarks, check out their programming and the resources available on their website—you’ll recognize some of Philanos’ best content being promoted to a wider audience. 

    And if any of you have questions, suggestions, ideas, you all know how to reach me, pliang@philanos.org

  • Monday, November 09, 2020 8:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Sharing this exceptional post with valuable resources:

    Facing the Challenge of Racial Inequity or Avoiding It,  Jim Taylor, BoardSource blog, October 30, 2020


  • Friday, August 21, 2020 2:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Executive Director, Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County

    The Women's Giving Circle of Howard County, Maryland is proud to continue our support for Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) which is observed every August. The primary aims of BPM are informing, involving, inspiring and investing in Black philanthropic leadership to strengthen African-American and African-descent giving in all its forms, for the benefit of our planet, our communities, our organizations and our lives.

    "We are excited to continue our support of National Black Philanthropy Month" said Hina Naseem and Judy Smith, co-Chairs of WGC's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. "Informing, involving, inspiring and investing in Black philanthropic leadership are among the goals of this annual celebration and we are committed to advancing this important work in philanthropy, both in our community and across the country."


     Read the full post here!

  • Friday, July 17, 2020 12:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Shared post from July 9, 2020 
    https://www.givingprojectvt.org/new-blog

    I had a wonderful, appropriately socially distant, afternoon with the visionary founders of The Giving Project, Leslie Halperin and Laura Latka in mid-June. As a part-time Vermonter myself, I was very excited to hear about their achievement in standing up 10 new Giving Circles around the state during the COVID quarantine, and hoping that the next cohort, which they expect to start in the Fall, will include one in Windham County, because I would absolutely join.

    By way of introduction, I am a member and past President of Women’s Giving Alliance in Jacksonville, FL which is where my husband and I spend most of our time. WGA was founded by 5 influential local women in 2001, and it’s 450 members generally grant about $500K per year to organizations that serve women and girls in our five-county region. I am also the Chair of Philanos, a national network of over 70 women’s giving circles, and women’s funds and foundations that practice collective giving, and which have 15,000+ individual members. These groups annually invest over $15Million in their communities.  The network provides individual mentoring for the leaders of these groups, monthly webinars and other tools, and hosts a very popular biennial conference, where the sense of common purpose and Sisterhood is very powerful.

    Leslie and Laura asked me to write a guest blog, and I thought what I could offer to those of you who are just starting a Giving Circle or are considering being a part of the next wave are some ideas of things you might want to consider before you make your first round of grants—though Brava to the group in Brattleboro that has already moved funds to local Nonprofits! So, in no particular order: 

    1. What Matters Most?  
      Hali Lee, who founded both the Asian Women’s Giving Circle in NYC and the Donors of Color network likes to say that because she isn’t religious, her giving circle is where she goes to talk about values.  Some very well-established groups with hundreds of members are going to be having interesting and perhaps uncomfortable conversations around their shared values in the next few months. You have the opportunity to put what you believe and value right up front, and we are all living in an environment when this has become an expectation. Ideally, this would be the result of a a conversation among the founder(s) and several other committed founding members.

    2. What Needs are the Greatest?
      Lots of collective giving groups have done “disaster philanthropy” with some or all of their funds, others have stuck to their grant cycles as laid out before COVID. To be clear, there’s no wrong answer here. There are countless frontline organizations battling both the virus and institutional racism that need immediate funding.  But as Joanne Cohen, of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, which hosts WGA, has said, recovering from this set of crises will require that folks invest in the entire non-profit sector; we will need not only disaster relief, but investments in social services, educational institutions and the arts to fully restore our society.

    3. How do we respond to #BlackLivesMatter?
      In a state that was, as of 2019 94% Caucasian, it might be difficult to imagine about how to diversify your Giving Circle; but there are other ways to think about this. I listened to a webinar this week where Marcus Littles of Frontline Solutions acknowledged this problem, and basically said, your circle members are who they are, but there are other ways to help: Consider who you hire to advise you, (and please, if you look to NPO CEOs of color to advise you, compensate them), who you order food and other products from for your circle or your events. You can support black business owners, locally and nationally. 
      You can also learn more about anti-racist philanthropy. Reading and resource lists abound on this subject. Feel free to use the Philanos Building Anti-Racist Organizations page. There is also a national organization that that began working to support giving circles and giving circle networks on April 1, 2020, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation called Philanthropy Together.  They have produced two excellent webinars on the topic already, which you can watch here

    4. What stories will you tell about your Circle?  
      Lots of GC leaders like to talk about the “Four Ts: Time, Talent, Treasure and Testimony” as the most significant, and equal, assets they bring to the work. I was fortunate to be in Seattle a few months ago and was invited to the founding meeting of a group called Impact 100 Seattle.  Laura Midgley, a Philanos Board Member, friend, and member of Washington Women’s Foundation in Seattle came along with me, to a wine and cheese reception in a locally owned shop a couple of miles north of what was recently #CHAZ.  She told the founders, women in their 30s, to take lots of photos, and “remember this night, because in 10, 15 years, you’re going to be telling the story of the night you launched.”  The founders were pretty wide-eyed at this.  It was great advice when we could meet in person, but if your launch is going to be virtual, you can also make it memorable.  I have been on Zoom calls with musicians, poets, all kinds of “ice-breakers” and celebrity guests.  Invite your mayor or the wife of one of your (sadly all male) Congressional delegation.
      There will also be non-grantmaking effects of your work, especially as you grow, and you should keep track of those stories as well. How many local Non-profit women are part of your Circles? What non-monetary assistance did you provide to a grantee: volunteers, board members, advice, connection to other resources? Which of your members changed her path to work with Nonprofits? Who founded an organization to fill a gap in services you learned about? These kinds of stories abound within Philanos and the other Giving Circle Networks, and they lend a great deal of credence to the work. 

    5. Consider Funding Democracy?
      Philanos held a conference in Seattle in late February, 2020 which was called PowerUP! The Spark that Ignites Change and was DEI-focused. The final plenary speaker, Pia Enfante of the Whitman Institute said something that I will admit has haunted me, especially in light of the rolling state of crisis in which we find ourselves. Her advice: “consider funding Democracy, and if your members think it’s too political, ask them if they want to breathe air and live in a democracy?” Even if you can’t get your nascent group to think about aligning around values in politics, there are non-partisan groups in every State working to register people to vote and turning out the vote that you could support.  

    I’m envious that you are all at the beginning of what I am certain will be an incredibly satisfying journey in collective giving, and excited to know that in a few years, probably sooner than you think, Vermont will have a statewide network of smart, connected women who care about their communities and are working to be the change they seek to make in them.  You’ll meet lovely humans, make lifelong friends and learn a lot about your local NPO ecosystem. There will likely be wine involved. This is not a moment, it’s a movement.  Welcome.

    -Paula Liang
    Chair, Philanos
    pliang@philanos.org

  • Monday, April 06, 2020 7:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    April 2020
    by Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz

    Hi - here's an overview of 10 Ways the Women's Giving Circle of Howard County, Maryland is utilizing our strengths to respond to COVID-19

    https://www.womensgivingcircle.org/blog/ten-ways-the-womens-giving-circle-of-howard-county-is-utilizing-our-strengths-to-respond-to-covid-19
  • Tuesday, November 26, 2019 1:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    November 2019
    For Immediate Release
    Paula Liang, Board Chair, pliang@philanos.org

    THE CATALIST NETWORK JOINS WITH THE WING
    TO PROMOTE COLLECTIVE GIVING AND GIVING TUESDAY

    Catalist, the largest network of women’s collective giving organizations, is joining with local organizations to promote collective giving initiatives across the country in support of Giving Tuesday.  Hosted by The Wing, events will be held at their urban locations on Monday, December 2, or Tuesday, December 3, 2019. 

    A complete list of locations, dates and participants is here.    

    Catalist has led the content development for the events and will provide discussion leaders and panelists in concert with local giving circles and other women’s organizations. Discussion will affirm a new wave of an old paradigm is remaking philanthropy. Across the United States and spreading abroad, starting at the grassroots level, community-led giving circles are growing rapidly.  The movement is a testament to the power of women banding together with real capital to advance important causes.

     According to Catalist Chair Paula Liang, “Our national board members and local affiliate leaders are honored to partner with The Wing to advance this important dialogue. They will focus discussions on active philanthropy, with the message that women can collectively have a significant impact on their communities.” 

    Catalist supports the creation, development, and expansion of women’s collective giving and grantmaking nationwide and globally.  Catalist leads a network of women’s collective giving groups which help women pool their money to make high-impact grants in their local communities. The organization currently has more than 70 affiliates in the US, Australia and the UK, representing over $125 million in giving by more than 17,000 women since 1995.

    The Wing is a women-focused, co-working space collective and club with locations in New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston. It was founded in 2016 and currently has over 10,000 members. 

    Print

  • Tuesday, November 05, 2019 11:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Houston, October 2019
    by Stephanie Ellis-Smith and Laura Midgley

    A few weeks ago my friend Stephanie Ellis-Smith, founder of Phila Engaged Giving, and I went to Houston for the Community Investment Network (CIN) conference, which celebrated its 15th anniversary by reflecting on its legacy of building up communities through investing their time, talent, treasure, and testimony (using our collective voice for change). CIN is national network of giving circles impacting communities of color. It connects and strengthens African-Americans and other donors of color by leveraging their collective resources to create the change THEY wish to see. The majority of their members are African-American from the Southeast.

    Stephanie had some familiarity with giving circles in general, but was generally new to this organization. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know CIN as a board member of Catalist.


    I went to Houston with the specific mission to further Catalist's relationship with CIN.  Five networks in collective giving -- The Latino Community Foundation, Amplifier (giving circles based on Jewish values), the Asian Women’s Giving Circle, Catalist, and CIN – have collaborated on a co-design project aimed at accelerating the size and impact of the giving circle sector on community transformation. (Read about the co-design work funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.) The missions of these five networks of collective giving groups are closely aligned, so rather than compete, we collaborate. We all use conferences to inspire affiliates to dig deeper into this work and to prepare the leaders to go home to their communities feeling elevated. Sometimes this work can be wonky but we came home from Houston reminded it must always be joyful!

    Stephanie went to Houston strictly to listen, learn, and observe. Though we both are members of the Washington Women’s Foundation in Seattle, WA, Stephanie didn’t have much first-hand experience with giving circles, but has always been impressed with their personal engagement in their communities and the members’ commitment to learning and each other. Her work as a philanthropic advisor has been limited to high-net-worth individuals and families who are looking to become more strategic and dedicated in their charitable giving. Stephanie says “working with family groups is in some ways similar to a giving circle, but there is something uniquely special about a group of unrelated people voluntarily pooling their money to make investments in their local community.”

    We anticipated meeting new colleagues and reconnecting with fellow philanthropists who give through collective giving grantmaking, pooling funds for community impact. But a genuinely worthwhile conference should do more than provide a few new tools and a pile of business cards.  Our goals for traveling to Houston varied, but we both were delighted that our trip to Houston yielded an unexpected joyfulness that rejuvenated us.

    What struck us the most was the level of joy and camaraderie we observed, not just within each giving circle, but among them as well. Participants gathered to share stories and best practices and to learn. Their dedication to the work and communing with a cohort of like-minded people produced a powerful aura of goodwill that was hard to ignore.

    For me, the joy came from stepping back from the work and taking stock of why and how we show up for the communities to which we belong and care about in the first place. In the opening session, Linetta Gilbert, formerly of the Ford Foundation and a founding visionary of CIN, spoke meaningfully about how to blend institutional philanthropy with individual philanthropy. And of course, this is exactly what collective giving groups do – inform the individual through group experience and then elevate the impact through collective giving. Ms. Gilbert spoke about the value of a listening tour and the power of starting any foray into philanthropy by asking “Who is absent?” How can we as philanthropists elevate community by seeking out the voices of those left out of the traditional philanthropic power dynamic? 

    Ms. Gilbert and her co-presenter Darryll Lester, CIN’s founder, said of the partnership between funders and grantees: "Spend time with each other to get to know one another before doing business". Too often institutions begin the relationship with a transaction – the grant or the donation. Starting that way sets the tone for it to become forever framed and dominated by that transaction. At The Ford Foundation and now in her recent work, Ms. Gilbert invests in relationships first. Doing so allows us to understand the landscape behind the issue and to better allocate our resources and energy. It became clear to us that it is only from this level of engagement that we can begin to envision how all American communities can grow and thrive equitably.

    For Stephanie, she found a deep sense of joy simply from the conference’s theme: “We are Philanthropists”. “It was empowering for me to be among African-Americans who proudly claim the mantle. While many debate whether the sector is hopelessly corrupt and ineffective, CIN’s giving circles harness all that is right with philanthropy and brings it into the Black community on their own terms.” Circles represented at the conference gave to individuals (from Black men and boys mentorship groups to struggling entrepreneurs or artists) and to traditional organizations. They also came to learn about innovative programs going on nationally that they could bring back to their circles to learn from or adapt for their own community.

    The learning components tapped neatly into the spirit of the conference: community-based and Black-centered. Speakers who brought their expertise to CIN included land trust advocates from the South speaking about building land sovereignty for displaced black and indigenous people, representatives from Black community foundations talking about how and where to invest a circle’s funds, and community-owned grocery store investors on how to eliminate food deserts. We left inspired not just by the work, but by the communion of the network.

    Collective giving embodies the best tenets of philanthropy. People pooling resources, sharing knowledge, and offering a hand up to those who need it brings out the best in all of us. Stephanie and I wish this blog could share the warmth of the hugs we received or the sounds of laughter we heard during those two days. Such a jolt of energy renewed my spirit and my commitment to helping people find joy in their giving through deep engagement and understanding.

    Feel free to contact Stephanie or me about our work. We will explore more of these themes at the Catalist conference PowerUP! The Spark That Ignites Change in Seattle in February 23-25, 2020. As conference co-chair I am delighted we have so many talented speakers lined up, including Stephanie, who will be presenting on women of color philanthropists.

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