Giving Circle Network

The Women's Foundation of California is a national leader in giving circles and community-based philanthropy. Over the last fifteen years, our giving circles have collectively awarded $11.3 million to more than 500 outstanding nonprofit organizations that serve low-income women and girls.

What is a giving circle? It’s a group of individuals who come together, pool their resources, learn about and help solve problems in their communities. We call these individuals "philanthroactivists" because they have a dual role. First and foremost, they’re philanthropists who give grants to smart on-the-ground organizations. Second, they’re community activists who partner with their grantees, policymakers and businesses to create sustainable change in their communities.

Why giving circles? Because understanding complex issues and awarding grants to effective organizations is a lot more strategic and fun when done with other like-minded donors. Because giving circles are able to fund not just one organization once, but coalitions of organizations year after year. Because giving circle members can leverage their individual gifts to award large, high-impact grants to deserving organizations. Because working in a community of donors is more empowering than working alone.

Our giving circles


Our giving circles offer connection and knowledge

Giving circles are a core strategy of the Women's Foundation of California—all six of our circles focus on increasing the economic security of low-income women and families. However, each circle selects a specific economic security focus and tactics that best meet the needs of their local communities. For example, WomenGo! invests in college access and completion for low-income women while Women Give San Diego invests in job training, mentorships and financial education of women in San Diego County.

Our strategy is unique because we offer more than financial management, grantmaking support, education and training to our giving circles. We connect them with each other, creating a strong network of philanthropists throughout California, people who are committed to working together to solve a common social problem. Our giving circle network is a community and an unprecedented opportunity for philanthropists to learn from each other and multiply their impact.


Meet some giving circle members

Our circle members are unique because they have a hands-on approach to their philanthropy. They're not armchair—or desktop—philanthropists. They don't give to one cause one year and to another the next. There's nothing wrong with that, but they don't think it's strategic enough. Our giving circle members are changemakers so they're in it for the long haul. They know that it may take years, possibly their entire lifetimes, to create change on the scale that they envision.

They have stamina and tenacity and no use for instant gratification. Because they know many heads are better than one, they like each other's company and look forward to researching, discussing and investing as a team. They show up, day after day, never discouraged, always hopeful, their sights set on their long-term goal: women's economic security in California.


Michelle Cale

Michelle Cale believes that all young women deserve a chance to have a good education and with WomenGo! she has dedicated herself to that work.

Read her story >>


Deborah Drysdale
Race, Gender and Human Rights Giving Circles

We are not the leaders. The advocates are the leaders and they're leading with such hard work, strategic thinking and dedication."

Read her story >>


Carina Tracy
Violets' Giving Circle

Since 2008, this youth-led giving circle has awarded $165,000 in grants for educational programs geared towards underprivileged women and girls.

Read her story >>


Barbara Pierce
Economic Development and Justice Giving Circle (EDJe)

EDJe has been trailblazing since its inception in 1999 by advocating for the rights of low-income women and girls.

Read her story >>


Bunmi Esho and Merle Brody
Women Give San Diego

Bunmi Esho and Merle Brodie share leadership of the 123-member strong giving circle based in San Diego. They have an inspiring leadership model.

Read their story >>


Benefits of our giving circle network

  • Access to state-of-the-art financial management, grantmaking support, education and training
  • Opportunity to connect with a statewide network of like-minded women and men who learn and give together
  • Chance to align with the only statewide foundation using collaborative grantmaking, policymaking and advocacy to increase the economic security of low-income women and families in California
  • Access to cutting-edge data and resources related to the needs of low-income women and families in California and effective strategies to address those needs
  • Invitation to attend our prestigious giving circle network institute and grow knowledge about strategic grant making, advocacy and volunteer management
  • Freedom to customize and manage circle membership structure to fit each circle’s needs and interest areas
  • Support in determining strategies and funding priorities to meet the needs of the giving circle's communities
  • Assistance with identifying and vetting nonprofit applicants and outstanding grant partners


Do you want to join or start a giving circle?


We have giving circles in the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley and San Diego. If you wish to join one of them or start a giving circle in your area, contact Rhiannon Rossi (pictured on the left), Program Officer, Philanthropic Engagement, at or 510-740-2519.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!