The power of collective women's giving

Eleanor Cater
Membership Services Director
International Women’s Day - 8 March 2024

Giving circles offer immense opportunities to empower new types of giving, and across the planet we see them empowering women’s giving, in particular.

I don’t know a more mighty way to explain giving circles than the one put forward by Sara Lomelin in her TED talk - “It’s what I know philanthropy to be: it’s joyful, transformative, collaborative and intentional” (warning – you’ll love it, it’ll be the best 13 minutes you spend today - watch it here).

Giving circles are joyful, transformative, collaborative and intentional, and they are a way to activate local resources and to connect people – the doers and the givers – together. They share decision-making and they can build on the collective - money, people, connections and ideas - of the community.

Community foundations across Aotearoa NZ run giving circles, and, interestingly, all of them are women’s giving circles. Wakatipu Community Foundation run a women’s giving circle called ‘Impact100’, where 100 women give $1,000 annually and decide collectively where the funding goes. Over 200 women have signed up and, collectively over the past few years, they have given $700k to a range of causes including community health & wellbeing, environment and education. Eastern Bay Community Foundation’s Impact100 model also involves over 100 participants, a group which most recently chose to invest in the maternal mental health of isolated rural mothers across the Eastern Bay of Plenty, activating local giving to fund a defined local need.

Women’s Funds are also active at Auckland Foundation, Momentum Waikato Community Foundation, The Christchurch Foundation and Aoraki Foundation in South Canterbury, and these are essentially collective giving circles, often with a long-term invested endowment aspect. Giving from these funds is focused on areas that will activate empowerment for women and girls: some examples include supporting Māori and Pasifika women into healthcare roles, addressing period poverty, support and advocacy for wāhine, tamariki and whānau experiencing family violence, post-natal and mental health support services and scholarships to develop female leaders in our communities.

Acorn Foundation, in the Western Bay of Plenty, run a number of giving circles (which they term ‘give with friends’) and they provide advice on impactful areas to donate the money to. Honeybadgers is a group of 12 women from Mt Maunganui who give collectively and utilise the insights from Acorn Foundation to guide their giving, most recently into the areas of child and youth development, mental health and adolescent suicide prevention (check out this news article here). Collectively, the Honeybadgers have now donated an impressive $30k to 11 local charities doing life-changing mahi in the Bay of Plenty.

There is something really different about collective and democratised giving, such as giving circles. As Lomelin says, “When we shift the power of philanthropy into the collective voice we change who gives, how we give, and ultimately, what gets funded. Giving by, for and with the communities we represent, is the future of philanthropy”.

This International Women's Day, we want to say thank you to all the joyful, transformative, collaborative and intentional wāhine who are collectively giving to transform their communities, ngā manaakitanga.

Are you interested in starting a giving circle in your local community? Contact your local community foundation to find out how.

Date Posted: 07 Mar 2024

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