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The appeal of collective giving

Impact100 Philadelphia members. October 31, 2019 Category: FeaturedLongPurpose


This is a guest post by Mary Broach and Beth Dahle, cofounders of Impact100 Philadelphia.
We’ve thought a lot about collective giving over the past decade.

In 2008, we took a leap of faith as cofounders of Impact100 Philadelphia. We came from the other side of the nonprofit equation — grantwriting and fundraising — and were drawn to the idea of women joining together in grantmaking.

With almost 12 years of experience in collective giving, here’s why we think it’s appealing:

Together, making more of a difference

Impact100’s women members each contribute $1,000 toward an annual grants pool; each year, we award as many $100,000 grants as the pooled funds support. While $1,000 is a large personal donation, how can we know what it is accomplishing for an organization? A collective grant of $100,000, on the other hand, can be a game changer for a smaller nonprofit organization.

Over the years, women have said that leveraging their personal donation into large grants is the primary reason they participate. They feel that combining their dollars with those of others can make a more meaningful difference in their community.

Data gathered from Impact100 Philadelphia members also shows that they donate more in general because of their involvement in collective giving. Exposure to this giving model has made them more generous overall.

A deeper sense of community

Why is collective giving a movement mostly among women? We’re not exactly sure, but what we do know is: our women members are excellent collaborators, good listeners, people who want to learn about pressing needs in the Philadelphia region. They are people who respect our group’s collective wisdom and place more value on doing good in their community than they do on personally dictating where their funds go.

Collective giving members often make new connections and form friendships. In our adult lives, it feels rare to have the opportunity to meet a new, diverse group of people, have conversations about important issues, and collaborate on a joint effort. There’s no question that the nonprofit applicants and grantees are the ones doing the hard work. But collective giving exposes members to that work and makes them more invested in understanding and supporting it. Members feel a stronger connection to their local community because of all they learn, and this is the heart of it.

An Impact100 member recently commented that she joined at a tough time in her life. She’d lost a parent and was going through a divorce. She credits Impact with helping her through that time. “It took me out of my own world. It felt really good to be doing something for others,” she said. We all experience collective giving in different ways, but the sense of community is palpable.

From our Partners

Learning together

Impact100 stresses informed giving. We study, debate, and together come to decisions about where our $100,000 will have a high impact. A member once said that she viewed her $1,000 as a tuition payment. “I’m learning so much. It’s like being back in school.”

From written proposals to site visits to grant finalists’ presentations, women in collective giving are able to learn in unusual detail about nonprofit organizations’ work and the challenges faced in their communities. Through the group discussions that tend to be at the core of this model, we wrestle with our own long-held or maybe poorly informed assumptions. Members with direct personal experience offer insights that educate an entire group. We’ve had a teacher explain classroom programs that work best; a doctor weigh in on public advocacy for health care; attorneys discuss a social justice issue. A member who was homeless as a child shared her experience to inform the group’s review of a proposal.

A member once said during a proposal review meeting: “I’m listening to all of you and you’re so accomplished. I don’t have anything to offer.” She was quickly assured otherwise and, during the course of that committee’s work, she shared many valuable insights that stemmed from her unique perspective. Members not only learn from one another but also benefit from the careful review and wisdom of other members. More than half of Impact100’s members invest in the grants but choose to leave the funding decision to members who are hands-on in proposal evaluation.

A ripple effect

One of Impact100’s early grants funded tree-planting on an urban block. When trees are planted, residents begin taking care of the sidewalk in front of their home; they sit on the stoop, meet other neighbors, and gather for block parties. That is the ripple effect that can come from investing $100,000 in a community.

We believe that Impact100’s $100,000 core mission grants yield that kind of ripple effect for our grantees by supporting and strengthening them for the long term. Recent grants went to:

  • Interim House to help 125 women, in recovery from addiction and trauma, to gain employment
  • Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project for structured supports and services for youth charged in the adult criminal justice system
  • CARIE to improve the quality of health care available to vulnerable older people in our region
  • Musicopia to support the after-school Drumlines program that develops music fundamentals, inspires cultural pride, and teaches crucial life skills

Grantees say that going through such a careful vetting process helps attract other funding. Members are often inspired by applicant organizations and become volunteers, board members, and ongoing donors.

From nonprofit organizations to the broader community to the women members who join together, collective giving can make a world of difference.

Impact100 Philadelphia’s membership deadline is December 1 for the grants to be awarded in June 2020.

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