Collective giving, a pooling of resources among like-minded people to support a community or cause, has tripled in size in the United States in the past two decades, led by a rise of women’s grantmaking organizations formed around this principle.
These organizations have their own unique permutations, but all share some commonalities:
- Their members pool money to make larger grants for greater impact.
- They employ formalized, member-driven grants-review procedures.
- They use a democratic process to select their recipients.
- They offer educational and leadership opportunities to foster informed philanthropy.
In Greenville, the collective-giving model is exemplified by Greenville Women Giving, born as a special initiative of the Community Foundation of Greenville. Three local women, Harriet Goldsmith, Frances Ellison and Sue Priester, founded Greenville Women Giving in 2006 based on the model pioneered by Washington Women’s Foundation in Seattle, Washington — a collective-giving organization founded by Colleen Willoughby and others in 1995.
Greenville Women Giving was founded in 2006 by locals: Harriet Goldsmith, Frances Ellison and Sue Priester
The Community Foundation of Greenville has been critically important to the success of Greenville Women Giving. Fourteen years ago, The Community Foundation leadership saw the potential benefit a strong collective-giving group would bring the community — and they have never wavered in their support. Bob Morris’s introduction of the founders, the $50,000 match for the first three rounds of granting, and the continual support on innumerable levels has advanced an organization that has grown to over 550 members and collectively granted more than $6 million to 79 Greenville County nonprofits.
GWG’s local success is also part of a national story. Shortly after GWG’s inception, the Washington Women’s Foundation led the formation of a network of like organizations to host national leadership conferences, to be a forum to share resources and best practices. GWG was an original member and remains one of the largest active groups in the current Catalist (formerly WCGN) network of 72 affiliates. GWG founder Sue Priester was a founding board member and continues to plan and moderate Catalist’s webinar educational series.
Greenville Women Giving has grown to over 550 members and granted $6 million to 79 Greenville County nonprofits
What members gain from the collective-giving experience is rich and rewarding. GWG grants in five focus areas: arts and culture, education, environment, health, and human services. In addition, every year they offer members five educational sessions, one in each focus area, featuring issues, programs and policies presented by experts on the needs and resources in our community. Members who wish for a deeper dive can serve on the grant selection committee — the 80-90 member group of teams tasked with building the ballot for the full membership vote.
The membership “surprise” for most are the new friendships made and relationships forged. GWG is a cross section of informed and engaged women from throughout the county, from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, who generate a synergy different from most single-purpose organizations. In addition to long-time Greenvillians, GWG attracts newcomers and is seen as a welcoming place to quickly learn about and become involved in their new community, and to meet new friends.
The philanthropic surprise is based on surveys of GWG members. They mirror the findings of national studies of women’s collective giving groups.
Our members report they:
- Give more money overall to philanthropy since joining GWG.
- Give their philanthropic dollars more strategically than in the past.
- Have become personally involved with nonprofits they have encountered through GWG, including direct donations, volunteer efforts and even board participation.
This ripple effect is the true power of collective giving, and one that has made the larger philanthropic sector sit up and take notice. Greenville Women Giving has fostered a place where women have the ability to donate time, treasure, talent and testimony. Together they have taken that to heart, and today Greenville is the richer for it.