Women and Philanthropy: Giving groups equal big impact

womenwhocareSondra Shaw Hardy remembers when women’s philanthropy was a foreign concept. Today, she celebrates the “power of the purse.”

“Reaching out to and recognizing women as having money and being philanthropists is a given now,” Hardy said. “(But) 30 years ago almost no one thought that women had money or, if they did, women made decisions regarding giving based on what their husband or family said.”

“Once women started earning money, they wanted control over how it was spent,” she said.

Hardy is nationally recognized as a pioneer in women’s giving. Co-founder of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, she has written and consulted extensively on the topic. In 1999, she helped co-found the Three Generations Circle of Women Givers in Traverse City which was the first women’s giving circle in the United States. The concept gave birth to thousands of women’s giving circles and participatory philanthropic endeavors around the world, including several in the Grand Traverse region.

“Collaboration rather than competition are key to women’s giving,” Hardy said, noting that women approach philanthropy differently than men. “Giving circles have been said to grow women as philanthropists…and in many ways fulfill women’s entrepreneurial nature,” she said, noting early research that she and colleague Martha Taylor conducted on ‘the 6 Cs of women’s motivations for giving.’

According to Hardy, women want to ‘Create’ something in response to a human need; ‘Change’ and make the world a better place; ‘Connect’ and see the human face their gift affects; ‘Commit’ to a cause or mission; ‘Collaborate’ with one another; and, ‘Celebrate’ and have fun with their giving.

“It’s truly wonderful that women in this community really get it,” Hardy said, noting the number and variety of giving groups underway in the region.

“There is no one special way to form a giving circle,” she said. “They are all different depending on the community, the cause, and the women involved. Traverse City has a community of very well informed and generous women, which is important as there is a great deal of need here.”

There are several giving groups impacting the Grand Traverse region with the power of their collective purse. Here’s a snapshot:

mAIDens of Michigan

Founded in 2008 in Traverse City by Brenda Biederman and Sondra Shaw Hardy, mAIDens of Michigan assists women in need with funds raised through potluck dinners held twice each year. Approximately 50-60 women attend, bringing a donation and a dish to pass, then spend the evening together while also hearing stories of women facing challenges and those benefiting from mAIDens gifts. More than $110,000 has been raised with 99.8 percent regranted within weeks of each potluck.

The group’s driving criteria is to help individual women in dire need who might have fallen through the cracks or otherwise not qualify for aid, and to “make a difference” in her life. The need may be caused by unemployment, economic downturn, illness, family challenges or other unexpected crisis. Past gifts have funded dental care, emergency heating, transportation for medical care, telephone service, bus passes, and a range of other emergency expenses that, in turn, helped women regain employment, address urgent health concerns, aid dependent children and grandchildren, and generally regain their footing amidst economic or personal upheaval.

“Every dollar we raise has been given to someone in need in our community who had nowhere else to turn,” Biederman said, noting mAIDens support has also leveraged additional support for recipients through in-kind services, collaborations and matching donations.

100 Women Who Care

Kristin Marinoff of Traverse City and her mother Renie Cutler of Maple City co-founded the Grand Traverse and Leelanau chapter of 100 Women Who Care in December 2011. Modeled after the first 100 Women Who Care founded in Jackson, Mich. in 2006, there are now 150 chapters around the country. The format is simple and efficient, members commit to four $100 donations per year. Meetings are held quarterly for one hour at the Traverse City Golf & Country Club where members listen to three presentations on causes advocated by members, and then vote on one to support. At the end of the meeting, individual $100 donations are directed to the chosen charity, resulting in combined funding of $10,000 or more. The streamlined format appeals to those interested in learning about and supporting community needs but don’t have a lot of time for meetings. Since its formation, 100 Women Who Care has donated over $230,000 to organizations in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim and Benzie counties. The interactive presentations have also attracted new volunteers, collaborations and individual supporters bringing added benefits for the featured organizations.

“It’s a fabulous platform for giving,” Marinoff said. “As with anything, there is power in numbers. Many want to give back but are often discouraged because they don’t believe they can give enough to make a dent in the big picture. When you put 100 women willing to give $100 to a cause together, that suddenly becomes $10,000, and that’s a big gift to an organization.”

Help in Heels

Help in Heels is comprised of 12 local women who address local needs at a grassroots level. This past summer, they partnered with Hagerty Insurance to create a “Tools for Schools” drive benefiting Traverse City Area Public Schools teachers and students. Help in Heels organizers noted they were motivated by the number of teachers who personally purchase supplies for their classrooms. The Tools for Schools drive filled 30 boxes with notebooks, markers, folders, Kleenex, glue sticks, crayons and related elementary school supplies, which were then shared among Blair Elementary School, Central Grade School, Courtade Elementary School and Silver Lake Elementary School. Each school also received an additional $100 to purchase additional supplies.

Three Generations of Women Givers

The nation’s first women’s giving circle, Three Generations of Women Givers, was founded in 1999 to primarily benefit the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in Traverse City. It has raised more than $450,000 since forming. Members annually donate $1,000 each or share a membership for $500. Until 2013, the circle’s pooled giving was split, with half earmarked to the WRC and the remaining funds allocated through member-approved grants to community organizations that addressed the needs of women and girls. During the past two years, the circle’s funds have been used for WRC’s Building Hope Renovation Campaign to address renovations and upgrades to Helen’s House emergency shelter and Madeleine’s House transitional housing, as well as operational funds for Helen’s House.

“The support of women in our community, both financially and for the cause of helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, is vital to our work,” said Anne Brasie, development director.

Impact 100 – Traverse City

Impact 100 – Traverse City is the region’s newest giving group. Currently forming as a pass-through foundation, it will be a local chapter of the Impact 100 model founded by Traverse City philanthropist Wendy Steele in 2001 in Cincinnati. There are currently 39 Impact 100 cities in the world with an additional 13, including Traverse City, in development. The Impact 100 model creates transformational granting organizations. Members donate $1,000 annually and collectively award a minimum $100,000 grant to a single organization. For every 100 members, they are able to award a $100,000 grant; so if membership is at the 200, 300 or higher level, multiple grants will be awarded. There will be five funding categories including: Education; Environment, Preservation & Recreation; Arts & Culture; Family; and Health & Wellness.

The group is being led by co-presidents Allison Beers and Diana Milock along with a 17-member board of directors that includes founder Wendy Steele. The group is in the process of filing its organizational paperwork and finalizing related requirements. They hope to begin accepting members in January and award the first grant in late fall 2017. Unlike the other giving circles, membership will be open to men as well as women. Membership goal is 200 members during the first year.

“I feel blessed that my parents instilled in me the need to give back,” said co-president Allison Beers. “After serving as a Rotary Charities trustee for three years, I see what transformational grants can do in making a significant impact and acting as a catalyst for change.”