WOMEN HELPING WOMEN: HOW THREE GROUPS ARE ENABLING AND INSPIRING WOMEN OF COLOR TO LEAD CHANGE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES
Catalyzing Community Giving, W.K. Kellogg Foundation
A few years ago, the San Francisco-based Latino Community Foundation noticed a significant uptick in the number of Latino women donors asking how to get more involved in its work to help vulnerable Latino families and children. “They wanted to give back in a deeper manner,” says Sara Velten, the foundation’s VP of philanthropy.
In response, the foundation organized its first giving circle, launched in November 2012. In its first two years, that giving circle—made up of an intergenerational group of Latina women from highly diverse backgrounds—distributed $30,000 in small grants to mainly women-led groups doing powerful work in their community. “It’s unbelievable what these organizations have been able to do with [these grants],” says Velten. “And the fact that they’re getting individual support from Latinas—from mothers like them—it’s very special for them.”
The Latino Community Foundation currently has five giving circles, four of them all female. With its Catalyzing Community Giving grant, the organization is working to grow its giving circle program—and to further engage Latina donors. “The format is very appealing to women,” Velten says. “And it’s unbelievable how they now use their voices in ways they wouldn’t even think about a few years ago.”
“We know that women will give if they are also taking action,” says K. Sujata, president and CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women, an organization with a long history of developing women and girls as leaders and philanthropists. The foundation is now using this principle to guide its Catalyzing Community Giving work to grow—and, importantly, diversify—its donor base. “The focus of our project is to engage more donors and expand the diversity of our donors, at all levels of giving,” she says.
One cohort of donors the foundation hopes to more fully engage is millennials—specifically, young women of color. The organization already boasts a giving circle made up almost entirely of millennials. But recruiting more young women donors means “finding out what moves them and what activates them,” says Sujata, adding that this cohort is particularly driven by issues related to justice.
Meanwhile, the Women’s Foundation for Greater Memphis is also using its Catalyzing Community Giving grant to recruit new women to philanthropy, albeit in a different way. The organization is helping local women of color-led civic organizations to secure more donors and more resources by enhancing their communications and messaging strategies—particularly those designed to engage donors of color in their work and their programs.
Helping these organizations develop the messaging that touches the hearts of donors of color—and taps into what executive director Ruby Bright calls their “deep spirit of giving”—is a key part of this effort. The foundation is also teaching these organizations and their leaders about fund development and how to expand their programs to achieve further impact.
Through these efforts, all three foundations are learning more than they ever knew before about how to inspire women of color to engage even more deeply in and through philanthropy. “This project is a learning lab for us,” says Bright.