Women Impact Philanthropy More Directly with Giving Circles

by / 0 Comments / 272 View / December 31, 2019

Women are increasingly going their own way in charitable endeavors. This is reflected in women’s giving circles, groups of women who create a common bond by coming together for a higher good.

One woman may not always see the effect of a single donation, but a giving circle can make a significant impact through multiple or sustained donations.

Central Pennsylvania boasts several women’s giving circles. One is at the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development in Lancaster, which offers speech, physical, and occupational therapy, all outpatient, for kids from birth to age 21.

“We also have integrated (kids of varying abilities) daycare and preschool programs, social service programs, and parent classes,” said Susan Fisher, volunteer coordinator.

Called Edna’s Angels after Edna Schreiber, the center’s first director, the giving circle was started in 2008 by Sarah Ann Fisher and two staff members. They were motivated by the tough financial times and aimed to harness collective giving power to support special projects not included in the general budget.

“This is an organization of likeminded women who have a direct impact, with no bureaucracy,” said Fisher. “They truly see where the money goes. The money collected is used within a few months, so the impact of the funds and decisions is immediately seen.”

The annual membership is $250 — and ideas.

Last year, Edna’s Angels paid for furnishings of a calming/quiet room and funded softplay equipment for clients with gross motor skills; they also purchased activity gym equipment and technology for the speech department.

“As Schreiber continues to expand and grow in numbers, so does the [need for] available technology,” said Fisher.

Another Women’s Giving Circle is at Hospice & Community Care, which has facilities in Lancaster, Mount Joy, and York.

Hospice & Community Care provides medical, emotional, and spiritual support for individuals and families who are coping with a life-limiting illness. Hospice care focuses on comfort for individuals of all ages with any serious illness who have weeks or months rather than years to live.

The organization’s Pathways Center for Grief & Loss provides grief services to adults, teens, and children who have lost a loved one, even if their loved one was not cared for by Hospice & Community Care.

Thanks to the support of the community and the Women’s Giving Circle, no patient or family is turned away based on their ability to pay.  

“The Women’s Giving Circle was created in 2004 by 24 compassionate women who wanted to support Hospice in a meaningful way,” said Amy Lewis, director of philanthropy of the organization.

The Women’s Giving Circle provides interested women with the unique opportunity to pool their individual, annual contribution of $500 and have a greater impact by investing in programs and services that build and strengthen hospice-related programs through the power of joint contributions.

“The Women’s Giving Circle also provides women with opportunities for education and to foster and develop women’s capacity for philanthropic leadership,” Lewis added.

The circle has raised more than $500,000 since 2004 to support 164 Hospice & Community Care programs and projects. Currently, the circle has 155 members, and in 2019 it awarded $77,500 in grant requests, including:

Funding for the Inpatient Extended Stay Fund –This fund provides patients and families valuable time to focus on what is most important to them without the added burden of inpatient room and board fees when insurance no longer covers this service and patients and families do not have the financial resources to pay.

Funding for the Clinical Patient Special Needs Fund – Hospice & Community Care is taking care of patients who are younger, sicker, and without access to a steady income and are often left to fall through the cracks. These funds are used to buy medications, pay the electric bill of an oxygen-dependent patient, provide translation services or a sign language interpreter, and purchase specialized medical equipment for a pediatric patient whose comfort depends upon that specialized equipment, just to name a few examples.

Coping Kids & Teens Program supplies – This program helps children, teens, and families learn about loss, develop coping skills, and build self-confidence through fun-filled activities in a safe environment. Since children grieve differently from adults, they may use play or creative activities, such as drawing or writing, to express their grief.

Dementia Resource kits – These kits, containing mechanical cats and dogs, baby dolls, puzzles, magazines, books, and weighted and fidget blankets, serve as a way of enhancing staff and volunteer interactions. Volunteers and staff use the kits to facilitate meaningful conversations with dementia patients, as well as to reduce anxiety and agitation. This funding allows for the creation of dementia resource stations at all Hospice locations, including Lancaster, York, and Mount Joy.

Women can join Hospice & Community Care’s Women’s Giving Circle at any time throughout the year by visiting www.hospicecommunity.org.

The Lancaster General Health Foundation started with an original group of charter members in 2006 and is headed by Kate Mullen, senior development officer.

“The circle is meant to give women the opportunity to come together for philanthropic investment and to vote on which programs will benefit the institution,” said Mullen.

One circle meeting a year is dedicated to hearing from staff about projects/programs that need grant funding; others are devoted to educational/informative speakers about diverse health and wellness topics.

“There’s also a social aspect, so women in the circle can get to know each other,” said Mullen.

The grant proposals are vetted through the foundation’s leadership, and the proposals are then shared with the giving circle membership for review. Usually they’re connected to women’s and children’s initiatives, such as the neonatal program (NICU), community health education, pediatrics, children’s alliance, and women with cancer.

Membership then votes on which proposals they feel should receive the available funding, said Mullen.

The annual membership fee is $250. The number of circle members fluctuates but is typically 50.

Another giving circle is housed at the York County Community Foundation, said Carolyn Warman, consultant.

Carolyn Steinhauser founded the circle in 2002, with the goal of “bringing together a diverse group of women to work together through strategic philanthropy. The mission is to build a community of thoughtful, effective philanthropists,” said Warman.                

The group learns a lot about an issue or cause and works with others to address it — sometimes requesting competitive grant applications. Current investment priorities are urban revitalization/healthy neighborhoods and education.

Noting an increasing crime rate in the area, circle members met with the police chief. The circle partnered with Kinsley construction, York County Builders Association, York Habitat for Humanity, and neighborhood volunteers to pay for more than 300 safety gates that were installed to secure alleyways that otherwise would provide cover for drug dealers and escape routes for people running from the police.

The result was a 79% decrease in crime in that area.

The circle likes to put money into leverage, such as the York Academy Regional Charter School, which decided to add an intergenerational BA program and now has 850 students K-12.

“The giving circle donated $15,000 to fund the charter application,” said Warman.

The circle has about 80 members. Dues are $500 annually for junior members and $1,000 for senior members.

According to the Philanthropy Women website, giving in the circle form is happening now more than ever, much of it driven by women. Catalist, a national network of women’s giving circles representing thousands of donors, adds that the collective giving movement has grown slowly but steadily over 25 years. Much of the giving is focused on the needs of women and girls and aims to advance social change.

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