Entrepreneurial philanthropy: How 100 businesswomen created a giving circle

Whether it’s around a kitchen table or transacted online, giving circles are on the rise in Australia, enabling a greater level of connected and engaged philanthropy.

Also referred to as investment circles and impact groups, this vehicle of philanthropic giving is not to be snubbed. A survey in the United States from 2007 identified more than 400 circles, engaging more than 12,500 donors and charitable giving totaling $100 million (predominantly women donors and mostly founded by women).

Western Australia has just launched Australia’s first Impact100 giving circle (a highly successful model in the US), and they’re inviting 100 donors to donate $1000 to provide a $100,000 individual community grant.

Giving circles of various sizes and formalities, are emerging through book clubs, parent groups, families, workplaces as well as being instigated by charities to engage a new generation of donors. They provide a rich environment for donors to learn, connect with like-minded people and leverage pooled financial contributions.

One circle growing in prominence is First Seeds Fund, the philanthropic arm of Little Black Dress Group – a 100-member networking group for professional executive and entrepreneurial women in NSW, VIC, ACT and QLD.

The Group was founded by Janine Garner in June 2011, who after an 18-year executive career in Europe and UK (her last post as Group Marketing Director at Oroton Group), personally craved for a high quality, mutually-supportive network for intelligent, successful and resourceful women.

The vision behind First Seeds Fund is to support Australia’s under-privileged women and children at a grassroots level in the area of education and employment. It has been established as part of the Sydney Women’s Fund (a sub-fund of the Sydney Community Foundation), to allow the group access to best practice governance, investment and strategic philanthropy advice.

“Many of our members were becoming increasingly frustrated at not knowing where their charity donations were going or what difference was being made. Some were frustrated at the lack of support for communities in their own backyard,” says Janine.

“Our members are all successful women who are now able to give back on multiple levels, through their knowledge, their network, their experience as well as financially.”

First Seeds’ 2012 goal is to raise $30,000 and the group is committed to supporting the Warwick Farm Community project, an inspiring story of collaborative women working powerfully to create generational change.

“We chose to work at a grassroots level so we could see the outcome, maximise the return on the investment and work in partnership with recipients to develop a more 360 degree approach to philanthropy through money, time, partnership and passion.”

Click here for more information on the Little Black Dress Group. Women’s Agenda is Private Media’s brand new site for professional women. To check out the site and sign up for the FREE daily newsletter, click here.

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