Collective Giving and Generosity

By Michelle Carr
Women's Fund of Smith County

In 1914, Frederick Goff, estate attorney and philanthropist, introduced the concept of collective giving.  He appealed to community leaders to give money to one fund, and out of the fund, a committee would select and distribute funds to preferred charities.  Goff’s overall objective was to improve the lives of those in his community. It was a brilliant idea that caught on quickly throughout the country. Today, there are many types of collective giving.  Through collective giving, one invests in the quality and productivity of the lives of individuals in the community. Peter Drucker, considered the guru of the practice of business management, once said, “investments in human capital make the greatest contribution to the long-term productivity of a society.”

             For some people, collective giving can be an introduction to philanthropy and a way of becoming aware of the needs of the community. Collective giving offers benefits to both the giver and the receiver. The giver has the ability to scale the impact of their individual contribution, as well as, the opportunity to network and enjoy peer support. The recipient benefits from improved quality of life and increased productivity.

            Twenty-six years ago, my family and I moved to Tyler.  We quickly observed the many positive touches of a generous community.  The numerous non-profit and community-supported organizations reflected the pride, support, and philanthropy of this community and highlighted the value of empowering people.

One way I have observed collective giving benefit the Tyler community, is through my role in the Women’s Fund of Smith County. The Women’s Fund uses this simple and powerful concept of collective giving by bringing women from different backgrounds and giving capacities together to pool their annual donations and decide how to distribute the funds to organizations in the community that serve women and children. The Women’s Fund is a giving circle and strives to make investments in the lives of women and children, building human capital through the arts, education, human services and health and wellness. Each member that donates to the fund has one vote, thereby allowing any donor (however large or small) to have a say in how the funds are distributed. Many times, people support what they help build and will remain engaged when they invest in their community. I have noticed this benefit through the Women’s Fund. It’s easy to go about my days without seeing many of the needs here at home; but by getting involved in the Women Fund’s grant selection process and voting, I have learned much about the needs in this community. The Women’s Fund provides the opportunity for its members to learn, in depth, about the organizations seeking grants and their work in the community.  My involvement has also allowed me an opportunity to participate in significant change and become a much more informed donor.  

            In addition to improving the lives of those in our community, generosity also often increases happiness, compassion, and awareness in the giver.  Our happiness as a donor is derived, in part, by contributing to the success of another.  By these investments we are acknowledging the dignity of the receiver and their value now and in the future. 

            Although collective giving may be new concept to us in the last few centuries, the Old Testament of the Bible scriptures affirm the value in investing in your community.  In Jeremiah 29:7 it says:  “Also, seek the peace of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  Through our generosity and giving we can seek peace and prosperity of our [community] so we may all prosper here in Smith County. 

Michelle Carr serves on the Board of Directors and on the Grants Committee of the Women’s Fund of Smith County. Through collective giving, this organization of more than 300 women transforms our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children. For more information about mission and membership, please visit www.womensfundsc.org

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