“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

The Outer Banks Community Foundation's Giving for Good Circle brings children and families into the world of philanthropy.

The Outer Banks Community Foundation’s Giving for Good Circle brings children and families into the world of philanthropy.

Collective philanthropy is changing the way people give.

By Michelle Wagner

Have you heard of the new trend of giving circles? A giving circle is a form of philanthropy in which a group of individuals donates their own money or time into a pooled fund and then decides collectively where to donate that time and money.

According to research by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, giving circles are growing by leaps and bounds every year and make sense in terms of charity giving.

“The research definitely shows that donors can accomplish more good, learn more, make better decisions and have more fun when they give together,” the study reports. The forum’s database includes giving circles from 44 states and the District of Columbia.

The study also found that Giving Circle members give to a wider array of groups, influence members to give more strategically and are highly engaged in the community. The groups also increase members’ knowledge about philanthropy, nonprofit organizations and the community itself.

Here on the Outer Banks, giving circles are empowering Dare County’s families, women and children as local organizations jump on the growing national movement of collective philanthropy. These groups are finding that by forming giving circles they can leverage their donations to the charities that need it most.

Giving for Good Circle

Children from more than 20 Dare County families are learning the ethics of philanthropy at a young age through a giving circle with the Outer Banks Community Foundation.

Two years ago, the foundation began its Giving for Good Circle. The result has been a positive one for both local nonprofit organizations and the families themselves.

Each family donates $250 a year into a pooled donation. The circle then votes for the charity of its choice. Lorelei Costa, executive director of the Outer Banks Community Foundation, says the circle has been fertile ground for teaching children the value of giving and volunteerism at a young age.

“It’s amazing to be able to write a check and give it as a gift to a charity,” Costa says. “It’s even more amazing if you are a part of a group of families that all contribute and give a gift.”

Children get involved in the voting process of deciding which local charity will receive the money. “It’s wonderful to see the kids up there having a conversation,” says Costa. “It’s a fun process, and groups of families are rallying around issues that are important. It’s great to see the families give a gift together.”

Last year the foundation’s Giving for Good Circle donated funds to three organizations: $2,000 to Room at the Inn, $2,000 to Food for Thought and a small donation to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Avery Harrison, Giving for Good Circles chair and participant, says she hopes the group will grow as more families learn about it.

“It’s really exciting and we want to get younger people thinking about philanthropy,” she said. “It’s a fun way for families to get involved.”

Harrison adds that the time and financial commitment was manageable enough to encourage more families to participate. She also says that the children love being a part of the decision-making process.

Families in the circle are also involved in volunteering locally, Costa says. They have planted grass at Jockey’s Ridge State Park and contributed time to Surfing for Autism and the Outer Bank’s SPCA’s adoption program.

“The children are learning the importance of volunteering and giving back,” Costa says.

This year the group has voted for the nonprofit groups to donate to, but it was keeping the recipients a secret until after they surprised the charities with a fake check decorated by the children.

Costa says giving circles like the one at the foundation have become more common for a reason.

“Giving circles are popular because they help leverage donations and because individuals are able to be a part of something bigger,” she says.

Costa says the foundation targeted families with school-age children to encourage philanthropy as a family ethic. The group meets twice each fall to vote for charity recipients. All families can nominate a charity, and children or parents can speak on their behalf. Finally, each family gets an equal number of votes during the process.

Of each family’s yearly $250 donation, $200 is distributed to charities, $25 is put in the giving circle’s permanent charitable endowment and $25 is allotted for a foundation membership.

Interested community members can join the Outer Banks Community Foundation’s Giving for Good Circle by going to the online donation form on its website, www.obcf.org/giving/giving-for-good-giving-circle/.

Currituck-Dare Women’s Fund

Another major giving circle that has surfaced on the Outer Banks is the Currituck-Dare Women’s Fund, a local program of the Currituck-Dare Community Foundation in partnership with the statewide Women’s Giving Network of the North Carolina Community Foundation. This year, their pooled funds went to the Beach Food Pantry, Albemarle Hopeline, Food Bank of the Albemarle and Girl Scout Council of the Colonial Coast.

“The power of collective giving of this women’s giving circle is making an impact in this community,” says Sheila Tyler, president of the Currituck-Dare Women’s Fund board of directors.

Women in Currituck and Dare counties first began meeting in 2009 to consider forming a giving circle. The group focuses its efforts on the needs of women and children and its focus is to increase women’s involvement in philanthropy throughout the two counties and to improve the lives of women and children in this geographic region.

According to its website, the benefits of being a part of the Currituck-Dare Women’s Fund include participating in an organization of women empowering other women, helping to make strategic and informed decisions about philanthropy, attending educational meetings and special events, networking with women who share similar views and witnessing the power of collective support.

The women contribute $200 annually, $150 of which goes in the grant-making pool; $25 goes to administrative purposes and $25 goes to a statewide Women’s Fund held by the North Carolina Community Foundation.

“The Currituck-Dare Women’s Fund is a professionally and smoothly run organization with deep passion for making a difference in the lives of women and children in northeastern North Carolina,” says participant Jennifer Gilbreath. “I think untold numbers of local women want to work toward making lives of people, especially women and children, better but are limited with time and money constraints.”

With just a $200 fully tax-deductible donation and only two meetings per year, she says it’s a great way to get involved and give. “Who can’t make two meetings a year?” she asks.

Gilbreath says it feels good to make connections with like-minded women and to be a part of collective support for greater good.  “Though Women’s Giving Circle meets just twice per year, there are opportunities to attend other learning functions and events,” she adds.

Gilbreath says she is involved with several Outer Banks–specific philanthropic ventures, but that she likes the Currituck-Dare Women’s Fund because it has a larger scope of philanthropy beyond the Outer Banks and into northeastern North Carolina.

“We are not an island, neither geographically or socially,” she says. “It takes a region to support the Outer Banks economy, so supporting programs not just within but also beyond our Outer Banks not just feels good, but in my opinion is necessary.”

There are currently nine regionally based women’s giving programs in North Carolina. The local group is 15 women strong, according to Natalie Jenkins Peel, North Carolina Community Foundation regional associate.

“Women’s giving in general is strong and growing throughout the state,” says Peel. “Women’s giving programs leverage the power of local giving and are designed to maximize women’s leadership in philanthropy and in strengthening communities.”

For more information, contact Peel at 252-216-8908 or go to the website: nccommunityfoundation.org/page/currituck-dare

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