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Triangle women form new giving circle

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Diane Amato

Diane Amato

Ret Boney

RALEIGH, N.C. – A new women’s giving circle not only is bringing together dozens of women from around the Triangle, but it also is the catalyst for a new partnership between two local community foundations.

The Raleigh-based North Carolina Community Foundation and the Durham-based Triangle Community Foundation have joined forces to create The Art of Giving, which brings together women from Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham counties to support women and families in their communities.

Created in fall 2009, the circle launched with about six members, grew to 16 within a few months and in its first grant cycle awarded $9,000 to Genesis Home, a Durham nonprofit that provides housing and assistance for homeless families and youth.

Initially, the group met informally in the living rooms of its members.

Today, The Art of Giving has 43 members and aims to reach 100 by the end of the year, says Diane Amato, a founding member of the circle.

Each member of the circle agrees to donate $600 a year for three years, $500 of which goes into a grantmaking pool, with the remaining $100 covering administrative expenses for the two community foundations.

“Everybody has their own philanthropic beliefs and gives what they want,” says Amato. “Giving $1,000 a year, for example, is one thing. But if you’re able to come together with 100 other women each giving $1,000 a year – that’s a lot of money.”

With a membership of 100, the goal would be to award $40,000 in grants, with all of that going to one or two organizations to provide a significant impact.

“I like the fact that you can make such a huge difference to an organization by being able to give them really large grants,” says Amato. “And there’s the opportunity to work with other women who are smart and want to do great things for the community.”

Currently, the group includes women from their 20s to their 60s, both working women and stay-at-home moms, and each member has an equal vote when it comes to grantmaking.

“It’s gotten a lot more women engaged,” says Lori O’Keefe, director of philanthropic services for the Triangle Community Foundation. “Some of our fund holders have joined, as have some new people who weren’t affiliated with either foundation.”

While the circle is similar to the Wake County Women’s Giving Network, of which Amato has been a member for three years, The Art of Giving has a lower annual contribution and a shorter commitment.

The Wake County group, with 145 members, requires a $1,200 annual donation for a minimum of six years, a commitment that is beyond some women in the Triangle.

“We wanted to get a younger crowd and be a little more diverse,” says Amato, who serves on the grants committee of the Wake County women’s giving group, which is run by the North Carolina Community Foundation.

The two foundations joined forces back in 2009, after Amato expressed an interest in creating a Triangle-wide giving group once introduced to the concept of collective giving by Beth Briggs, president of Creative Philanthropy and a champion for women’s giving in North Carolina.

While the organizations had to deal with some “elephants in the room” – like how much each organization would be paid and which duties each would take on – several meetings led to what Carrie Gray, former director of engagement for the North Carolina Community Foundation calls an equitable solution.

The Triangle Community Foundation is handling all aspects of grantmaking for the circle, while the North Carolina Community Foundation manages the funds and handles recruiting and membership.

Right now, the Art of Giving has distributed a letter of inquiry and ultimately will request full applications from five to 10 organizations, with funds to be distributed by the end of the year.

“If we do this for the right reasons, then both community foundations are going to benefit,” says Gray.

And so will the residents of the Triangle area.

“At the end of the day, it’s a great opportunity to get women of all levels and backgrounds engaged in philanthropy,” says O’Keefe. “And it’s another opportunity for nonprofits to get some funding. How can that be bad?”

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