The New Philanthropist

Are there any philanthropists living in your neighborhood? When you think of charitable donors, you might think Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey or perhaps a well-funded foundation. However, over the last decade, we have seen the development of grassroots philanthropy in the form of giving circles. These circles are like-minded friends, neighbors, or co-workers who pool their resources and make joint decisions on grant making. An active network of circles started here in North Carolina.

In 2003 Darryl Lester began organizing young African-Americans in the South “to strategically invest their time, talent and treasures back into their communities in an effort to address issues of race and equity.” His efforts led to the creation of the Community Investment Network (CIN) headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina. CIN, according to their stated mission, “…inspires, connects and strengthens African Americans and communities of color to leverage their collective resources and create the change THEY wish to see.” The organization has grown to a network that includes giving circles across the country, and the numbers are still growing!

20/20 Sisters of Vision in Durham, NC is representative of those member circles. Joanne Jennings and Denise Rowson organized the circle. They regularly solicited $20 donations from friends to help out someone in financial crisis. Acting on their desire to be more systematic in their giving, they invited a group of friends to share a meal and to talk about their giving philosophies. Finding that they had similar goals, the group decided to form a giving circle and to fund organizations that empower and improve the lives of women and children. From the beginning CIN was available for consultation and support as the circle found its footing. They selected the Triangle Community Foundation to host their funds. Past grants recipients include the Interfaith Hospitality Network, Durham Center for Senior Living, and Angel Food Ministries.

  • The increase in giving circles nationwide shows that there are philanthropists at every income level. If you’d like to find out how to start your own circle, or support an existing one, get more information at http://www.thecommunityinvestment.org. You too can make a difference in your community.

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