When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it quickly changed the plans and workload of many local nonprofits, something the members of The Art of Giving (TAG) noticed immediately and took to heart. Wasting no time at all, the giving circle adapted their spring grant cycle, selected grantees, and lifted restrictions to ensure their dollars got out to the organizations that needed them as fast as they could.

“As everything seemed to unravel, it was very clear to me that TAG could do something to help,” said Diane Amato, Founder and Grants Committee Chair. “We quickly worked through the logistics to suspend our competitive granting and figure out an alternative vision for this cycle to reach the most need, something I’m very proud of.”

TAG, a women’s giving circle collective at Triangle Community Foundation, has a mission to address issues that affect women and their families. Since they began 11 years ago, the collective has granted over $170,000 to organizations fulfilling this mission in the Triangle. Each year, they choose a theme and hold a competitive grant cycle for a $10,000 grant. Their membership of 14 women vote on the grantee for the year; that list has included El Futuro, Dress for Success, The Hope Center at Pullen, Girls on the Run, Family Violence and Rape Crisis Services, The Compass Center, and more.

But this year brought an urgency to do something different, and Amato says everyone was on board. “It was so important to us that we change from our usual process and that people could stand back and see the bigger picture,” she said.

“We all have to think out of the box a little bit right now, do all that we can, and fund organizations with general operating support so they can stay alive during this time.”

Keeping with the theme they had chosen for the year, Fighting Hunger in the Triangle, the collective met with Foundation staff for recommendations on where they could make the most impact, and put it to a vote, ultimately settling on unrestricted grants to Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Communities in Partnership, and Families Moving Forward. But their grant totals were amplified this year, because one of their members, who is also an anonymous fundholder at the Foundation, added $10,000 to the granting pool.  Another member also donated an additional $3,000, bringing the total the collective could grant this year to $21,000, a $7,000 grant for each organization.

“We all have to think out of the box a little bit right now, do all that we can, and fund organizations with general operating support so they can stay alive during this time,” she said. “There is a place for restrictions, but at the same time, the largest expenses for any organization are payroll, rent, and utilities. There is rarely money available that is unrestricted from funders, and sometimes you just need to be able to cover the basics so staff can think innovatively about what programs to implement that could make a bigger difference.”

Giving collectively is a great way to maximize grant dollars too, said Amato. Giving Circles like TAG allow members to make their dollar go farther, something she learned early on. “You can give $500 to an organization and they’d be thrilled to have it, but if you can get 10 people to give $500 well, that’s $5,000! That’s so much more significant, and in some cases can support an entire program.”

As the collective looks to their 2021 grant cycle, knowing that this pandemic will likely continue to affect local nonprofits, they expect to put what they’ve learned here to use in the future. But for now, Amato is feeling a sense of gratitude for her fellow TAG members, that they were able to quickly react and make a difference.

“We have never seen the likes of what we are experiencing, and I know all of us take some comfort in knowing that we stepped up and helped people in our own backyard in a small, yet significant, way,” she said.