20/20 Sisters of Vision have never hesitated in helping the women and families of their community. As a giving circle of women of color, their mission is to empower women and families in local and global communities by enabling them to improve their quality of life in health, education, economic development, and spirituality.
It all began when women in the Durham community would approach Denise Rowson, co-founder of 20/20 Sisters of Vision, in need of financial assistance for their rent, children’s glasses, bills, and more. Joining forces with Joanne Jennings, co-founder of 20/20 Sisters of Vision, they would ask friends and women they knew to help collect money for these causes. “The ladies we would ask for help were the very first members of 20/20 Sisters of Vision, before we even knew what that was,” said Rowson.
Rowson and Jennings were simply helping the women in their community, but it was Darryl Lester, founder of the Community Investment Network (CIN) for giving circles, who brought the idea of starting a giving circle to the pair. It was through the help of Lester and Triangle Community Foundation that 20/20 Sisters of Vision were able to continue helping individual people and investing in a broader community to make systemic changes.
The giving circle has helped women who need assistance in their everyday life, and their efforts have also helped women become self-sustaining and independent by assisting with female-led business startups since the day they began.
“We were able to help Tracy Scott, founder and CEO of Tracy’s Gourmet, get her business off the ground, and it has led to her products being sold in a major supermarket like Whole Foods,” said Rowson.
“Through the grant from 20/20 Sisters of Vision, I was able to join a Women in Business organization where successful women provided mentoring and helped me to jumpstart my business,” said Tracy Scott.
20/20 Sisters of Vision doesn’t just see the importance of helping their local community, but also their global community. As many of their members travel, it became clear to them that it was just as important to help the global community as it was to help the local community.
“We’ve had members who went to Haiti during both of the most recent hurricanes there, so we supported their efforts in aiding the relief. When I went on a mission trip to Ethiopia to work with the AIDS community, 20/20 Sisters of Vision supported my efforts there too. We’re not just staying in the local community and doing good things, we take that work with us wherever we go,” says Rowson.
20/20 Sisters of Vision knows the importance of informed grantmaking and listening to the needs in the community. They meet with various organizations to learn more about them and find out what different nonprofits are doing, what impact they are having, and which ones align with their own mission. “We invite nonprofits to our quarterly meetings and have the opportunity to learn more about them, and find out how they can be best supported,” Rowson said.
But it’s not always done this formally. Because of the giving circle’s origin story, people within the community still come to them to talk about important work that is being done, and what is needed.
“Community members will come and tell us about an organization, and we do research and see if that works with our particular theme for that year,” said Rowson. “We always try to contribute if possible.”
By word of mouth or through their quarterly meetings, 20/20 Sisters of Vision works to stay connected to the community and their needs. They hold an annual fundraising tea where they celebrate their vision, mission, and accomplishments. Through this annual tea, they tell stories to let people know what they are doing for their community.
But good enough isn’t good enough for this group of women. They are always trying to improve and make a greater impact. “Our biggest challenge is to stay plugged into the community and give more of our time” said Rowson. “We want to be able to spread ourselves out and spend significant time with the nonprofits themselves, and find out how things are going and how we can better help them. It’s a process we’re always trying to perfect.”
Advice to our readers? “Give back! We were not blessed nor are we given the resources we have to just keep them to ourselves.”
20/20 Sisters of Vision Is A Giving Circle At The Foundation