In 2006, a small group of women came together to discuss the idea of creating a Women’s Giving Circle in the Eau Claire community. These women wanted to establish a collaborative effort in which women could work together, gather contributions, educate members about the power of collective philanthropy, and provide opportunities for hands-on involvement in awarding grants and making social investments that address the needs of women and children. With this mission in mind, Women’s Giving Circle, a Fund of the Eau Claire Community Foundation, was formed. To establish the Fund, 103 women pledged $1,000, payable over four years, and became founding members of Women’s Giving Circle.
The Founders agreed that they would accept and review grant applications from nonprofit organizations, then distribute four or more grants annually to programs that enhance the lives of women and children.
The grant cycle of Women’s Giving Circle is separate from the grant cycle of the Eau Claire Community Foundation. Grant funds are distributed yearly in December for use the following year. Members volunteer to participate in grant review training, then read all applications and make a recommendation of four or more grants for the membership as a whole to approve. The first four grants totaling $10,000 were awarded in 2007 for use in 2008.
To become a member of the Women’s Giving Circle, each woman makes a contribution of $250 annually. 50% of this contribution is added to the Women’s Endowment Fund, 45% is used to finance each year’s grants, and 5% is used to support the administrative costs of the fund. Each individual can decide how active she wishes to be in the ongoing work of the circle. By combining our collective resources of time, talent, and finances, we can achieve a greater impact than any woman could do alone.
There is power in collective giving– each and every dollar creates real and sustainable change by funding your favorite programs. Women’s Giving Circle or another type of Circle enables participants to make collective funding decisions and become more involved in the giving process than by simply writing a check to a favorite charity.
Giving circles vary in structure, size, and charitable focus. Some giving circles are very informal, simply a group of friends who meet in each other’s homes to discuss and decide on where their funds will go. Other giving circles have hundreds of members and governing boards, and may use a community foundation, such as the Eau Claire Community Foundation to manage the financial aspects of their giving.
Giving circles also provide social and educational benefits for their members as they share their hopes and visions for the community, research community needs, and make collective decisions. It is a philanthropic process which strengthens communities.