Giving Circles: A Recipe for Collective Learning, Strategic Philanthropy and Fun! - Women's Foundation California

gsandler-101-4x6With our upcoming Giving Circle Network Conference on the horizon, we sat down with Gretchen Sandler, incoming chair of the Board of the Directors of the Women’s Foundation of California, and a member of the Economic Development Justice (EDJe) Giving Circle, to talk about what she values about being a member of a giving circle. She’s been a member of the EDJe giving circle for 8 years.

What are the top three things you love about being a giving circle member?

  1. I love the people in my giving circle members. It’s wonderful to come together for a common goal, talk about important issues facing women and girls and solve some problems together.
  2. I like that it’s a collective effort in grantmaking. For me as a philanthropist, who also does philanthropy with my husband, I like that I’m in a group with others. We pool our money. I get to hear other opinions and other points of view. I like the collective learning.
  3. I like that our circle is part of the Women’s Foundation of California. When we’re talking to different groups or people, it’s clear that people really respect the Foundation and want to be part of it. When we invite speakers to share their knowledge, or invite groups to apply for grants, we have the respected backing of the Foundation.

How does this contribute to or enhance your philanthropy as a whole?

Before I joined a giving circle, I felt very tentative about my role as a philanthropist. I wasn’t sure how to be philanthropic. The circle has given me a place to learn a lot, on my own terms. Now I feel very confident about my philanthropy, and much more confident about what I’m doing and what kinds of organizations and people to look for to invest in. I have a better understanding of both the issues facing low-income women in California and some of the solutions. I understand more about what’s going on in the state of California and the San Francisco Bay area. I’ve been introduced to a lot of interesting and exciting organizations, some of which I’ve ended up funding outside of the giving circle structure. I’ve met and been inspired by lots of great leaders and their organizations’ work.

If someone were trying to decide whether or not to join a giving circle, what would you tell them to consider? 

I would say, especially if they do not have any experience in doing philanthropy, that they will really benefit. The circle provides them with camaraderie, and a low-risk, safe place to learn about philanthropy. They’ll gain from the experience and advice of the Women’s Foundation of California and be assured of not throwing their money away because there’s so much due diligence.  And it’s fun!

What would you tell people about the upcoming Giving Circle Network Conference? 

I would tell them to go! Whether or not you’ve had experience in giving circles or  philanthropy, you’re bound to meet a lot of really smart people who are involved in changing the lives of low-income women in California. I would definitely go if I was going to be in town. 

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