Collective Giving Turns Good into Greater Good

By Kristen Seeber
Women’s Fund of Smith County

 There is a Chinese proverb, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” Over the years, I have come to understand its meaning in both big and small ways. As a young girl, I would ride a bus to go stay with my grandmother who lived in a town an hour away from ours. I loved our long talks, as we took long walks to visit her friends. Even more, I loved listening to their stories of life on the farm – working from dawn until dark doing chores, gardening, canning, sewing and preparing meal after meal for their families and the hired hands. Theirs was a sisterhood, sharing a bond of days gone by.

Other fond memories of my childhood include after-church potluck suppers. I was amazed how the fellowship hall could turn from a Sunday school classroom into a banquet hall, while I worshiped in the sanctuary for only an hour. The same women who set tables, arranged centerpieces, and laid out the lovingly prepared food could just as quickly have it all neatly put away. The fellowship hall was ready again for Sunday school the next week.

There’s really nothing quite like a group of women. We are stronger together. When my dad was sick, my closest girlfriends rallied by my side. They set up a dinner schedule, took over my carpool duties and instinctively knew when I needed a shoulder to cry on and when I wanted to be left alone.

A room filled with women is a room filled with impact. Being a part of the Junior League of Tyler and the Women’s Symphony League of Tyler has taught me that. After months of careful planning, these women can transform Harvey Convention Center into something magical within days! The effects of those endeavors are far-reaching and transform our community, as well, by serving and enriching countless lives.

Women have always been invested in family and community. To that end, we have always been philanthropists committed to working together for the welfare of others. Philanthropy may have, at one time, implied a big name and a big check. Today, philanthropy often involves many donors and many checks.

Collective giving is a form of grant making which includes learning, decision making and community building together. These activities are particularly appealing to women donors. Giving circles, as they are known, are gaining momentum and continue to grow in popularity, strength and results. According to a recent article in The Huffington Post, research from 2009 found about 600 giving circles in the United States. More recent research, however, indicates now there are at least 1,314 giving circles with 46,000 members who have collectively contributed more than $474 million over the past 30 years.

The Women’s Fund of Smith County is one such giving circle. Our members are celebrating our tenth year of giving with a cumulative total economic impact on Smith County of $1 million. Board chair Patty Steelman and chair-elect Nancy Lamar joined me at a national leadership forum of the Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network (WCGN) where we participated in educational workshops, panel discussions and networking opportunities. We shared ideas and learned from one another about strengthening our communities and ensuring the grant-making process leads to informed, strategic philanthropic giving.

Without question, there is a ripple effect in collective giving and grant making. Members of these organizations are inspired to give more and to be more – leaders, volunteers and advocates for community nonprofits. If I give to a local agency, it says that I care. When I give as part of Women’s Fund, it says that more than 200 women care. Our voices are amplified, and we are standing shoulder-to-shoulder saying to those served, “You are not alone. You are not invisible. You matter, and we care.”

It is the collection of many different flowers that gives a bouquet its beauty. Our circle of women reflects the needs of our community, the vision of our founders, and the passion of our members. We are turning good into greater good. It’s why we give together, hoping to move a few mountains.

Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County whose mission is to leverage the philanthropic capacity of women as catalyst for positive change. Membership to this giving circle is open to any woman who would like to be a part of collective giving and grant making. Please visit www.womensfundsc.org for more information about our outreach and membership opportunities.

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