The Sisterhood of Collective Giving
On November 30, Impact Austin offered up a #collectivegiving spin on Giving Tuesday. Executive Director Christina Gorczynski moderated the panel, first sharing an introduction to Impact Austin and our collective impact since 2003. Christina thanked Lauren Lewis and Nicole Genovese for producing the event shared on Zoom and Facebook Live. You can also watch the video on our YouTube channel linked here.
Joining us were presenters from three Texas giving circles. (A planned fourth speaker was unable to attend at the last moment.) All speakers, bios, and giving circles were detailed in earlier blog. Our audience included members from those circles, Impact Austin, the Texas Women's Foundation, Philanos, Impact 100 Metro Denver, and the Giving Alliance of NE Florida.
Christina asked a series of questions, giving each presenter opportunities to reply in turn. Replies are paraphrased below, with occasional direct quotes.
Please give a brief introduction to your giving circle, how you started and grew, and where you are today.
Lisa – The Village Giving Circle: The Orchid Giving Circle helped give them a fast start. (Both are established within the Texas Women’s Foundation.) Now in their 4th year of fundraising and grants, with 110 members, they are nearing the $1 million mark and have partnered with 40 nonprofits. This year, they awarded $260,000 to 16 nonprofits in North Texas, a record for them. They first gathered in a member’s backyard with the goal to elevate Black women’s philanthropy in North Texas. To be a member, women invest $2,500. “That ask was a little scary, actually A LOT scary.” But they raised $80,000 in their first meeting.
Mylinh – The Orchid Giving Circle: They are part of “a sisterhood at the Texas Women’s Foundation for North Texas." Their goals are to make grants and foster philanthropy primarily to benefit the North Texas Asian Community. Their call to action became, “where are the Asian women leaders in North Texas, and how can we support our community?” They modeled their circle on the Asian Women Giving Circle in New York, and they approach the Texas Women’s Foundation in April 2015. Their focus is women and girls. In their first year they issued four grants totaling $76,000. Six years into the work, they have awarded $1,078,500 to 30 organizations. Their fund will grow as their community grows. They are currently focused on long-term planning, and their membership numbers 75.
Jessica – Impact 100 Houston: They started in 2020 during the pandemic, inspired by the community engagement of other giving circles and demonstrations of social change around the country. Their goal was to draw 100 members in year one. Instead, 188 women joined, including Christina Gorczynski, who was member #6! In fall 2021, they awarded $188,000 to five nonprofits. Their focus areas include Family, Environment, Education, Arts & Culture, and Health & Wellness.
How would you explain the sisterhood of collective giving?
Mylinh – The Orchid Giving Circle: They are keenly aware that only 1% of philanthropic dollars support the AAPI community, thus their focus on Asian women and girls. The Orchid’s value statements include:
We believe in collaboration and positively inspiring each other.
We are a community of South, East and South East Asian women with a common mission to effect beneficial change through the power of collective giving.
We support non-profits that empower women and girls and place an emphasis on female-led organizations.
Lisa – The Village Giving Circle: They have a saying that their circle is a sisterhood build around giving: shared experiences, shared concerns and interests, and bonding around those commonalities. They have a collective determination to lift up not just their community, through grants to organizations, but also each other. They honor philanthropy among African American women “which is not new. Our mothers and our aunties have been doing that for generations.”
Jessica – Impact 100 Houston: Jessica contemplated the notion of sisterhood on three levels.
Launching their organization – they acknowledge other giving circles like Impact Austin, and Christina in particular, for helping them to start. The collective giving sisterhood roots for all to succeed.
For members – the relationships and connections in being part of the giving circle.
Grantmaking – the connection with nonprofit partners is personally and collectively moving.
Do you have a special impact story to share of broader reach or impact because you work together?
Lisa – The Village Giving Circle: In their very first granting celebration, one nonprofit representative came to the podium to speak about her organization. She began to cry. She said that, in her twenty years of nonprofit work, this was the first grant she had received from women who looked like her. It wasn’t just the dollars for her. She knew that we saw her, and we saw the work they were doing. She became a Village member that same year!
Jessica – Impact 100 Houston: Going beyond what we intend with our grantmaking, we partnered with Houston Independent School District in an effort brought to us by one of our members. We came together, beyond our membership, to raise money for period projects for girls in 7th grade. It became an unexpected special impact story.
Mylinh – The Orchid Giving Circle: Mylinh shared her personal story as a little girl benefiting from the kindness of others. As her family escaped from the Vietnam War, they were sponsored by the Catholic Church. Years later, and coming full circle, The Orchid Giving Circle made a 2017 grant to Catholic Charities of Fort Worth to help a new wave of refugees. “We give where we live, because all of us….we know the needs out there.”
How does #collectivegiving inspire women to give “above and beyond” in their individual philanthropy?
Mylinh – The Orchid Giving Circle: In the last two years, they have created a new grant opportunity, Women Leadership Grants. These grants fund professional development for Asian American women running community nonprofits and are true to their value for supporting women and girls. “We are here for you, and we are here to support you. We are standing here with you.”
Jessica – Impact 100 Houston: Their most popular activities are around volunteering. She referenced the period project mentioned above and also service with the Houston Food Bank. “Our members are so hungry for as many ways to give as possible.”
Lisa – The Village Giving Circle: They require diversity on the board of nonprofits they support. The Village is now considered a knowledgeable resource for diverse leadership.
How is your giving circle building champions for your community, your grantees, and for collective giving as a model in philanthropy?
Lisa – The Village Giving Circle: They are re-defining the face of what philanthropy looks like. They now have 100 champions cheering the power of collective giving. They shine a light on nonprofits to they are champions and their donors are, too.
Mylinh – The Orchid Giving Circle: Their champions are those “in the trenches” – the organizations “doing the work in the community.” But, as donors, they show that philanthropy “has a look in many colors.” It’s not just resources, but also time and talent. They’re helping to build a community that provides hope, to lift all together. Their annual Leadership Forum in May included 800 attendees, 50 corporations, and 40 women executives, creating more champions.
Jessica – Impact 100 Houston: “We’re trying to keep the grantees at the center of everything.” Their leaders become members. Volunteer opportunities with grantees are created. And grantees are offered Takeover Tuesday on the giving circle’s social media. They consider grantees as “the experts,” whom members can learn more from.
In 2022, what are your organization’s goals and work moving forward?
Jessica – Impact 100 Houston: They want to surpass 200 members in 2022. They want to know how to better serve both nonprofits and members, while striving to understand community needs.
Lisa – The Village Giving Circle: They want to grow their circle; members can join anytime. Entering their 5th year, they want to continue to highlight their grantees.
Mylinh – The Orchid Giving Circle: “Our grantees are the hearts of who we are and what we do.” But they also plan intentional engagement with other giving circles so that we learn from each other.
Christina closed the event with a call to action for attendees to support their local giving circles - with renewed membership, gift memberships, operating support,
and hands-on volunteer work.
Click here for ways to support Impact Austin.