We all want to see a Triangle where everyone thrives, and it takes a group of committed people to help create that Triangle. As philanthropy has changed from an individual act to a more community effort, it seems fitting that giving circles have become a way for everyone to take part in philanthropy. Longleaf Collective, a giving circle hosted by Triangle Community Foundation, has proved that being a young professional doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in your community.

Longleaf began as an idea with a few people over coffee, but these few people knew they wanted to give in an effective, strategic, and impactful way. “We as young professionals can often struggle to make ends meet as we start our careers and pay off student loans, and even if we do donate, we sometimes don’t know where or what it goes to,” said John Coggin, 2017 chair of Longleaf Collective.  “The Longleaf Collective allows us to leverage our personal philanthropy by giving to the fund at the Triangle Community Foundation and then voting on where that money should be given. They may still be small grants in the grand scheme of things, but we see more clearly how our donations are making a difference.”

Getting involved in philanthropy at the start of your career is often overlooked. The beginning of a career is about getting settled into your first job, learning things hands on, or figuring out your future goals. It’s easy to forget about getting involved and giving back when there’s a belief that experience is required to make a meaningful impact. Longleaf, on the other hand, proves this isn’t the case. In fact, giving back at a younger age sets up a pattern of giving throughout a lifetime. The benefit of joining Longleaf is there is an intention to staying connected to nonprofits.

Longleaf understands they are not the experts in their focus areas- the arts, education, health, and poverty. Every year, they choose an area for their grantmaking and bring in experts in the field to speak on these areas and their own work. Through this, Longleaf aims to create informed grant makers. “Our focus for last year was the arts, and we brought in panelists from the art community to talk about the systemic issues in the arts industry and their own work in the community,” says John.

By being more strategic and informed in their grantmaking, Longleaf empowers its members to create a difference. “When we make a grant, we’re not just giving money. We are learning about systemic issues facing our community, talking with experts and community members about what is happening philanthropically…and what isn’t. Our goal is to find holes in current giving, take risks, and fund innovative projects that otherwise may get overlooked,” expresses Coggin.

It’s not just about giving through grantmaking, but being intentional with volunteerism and providing a forum and network to their fellow young philanthropists involved in grantmaking. However, this has proved to be challenging for Longleaf. Pairing volunteer opportunities with grantmaking has been difficult since they’re “choosing some deeply challenging subjects such as mental health workshops for parents in low-income neighborhoods or supporting the art-based therapy for refugees. In some cases it’s simply not appropriate to barge directly into the sensitive work of our partner organizations.” They work hard not only to find volunteer opportunities but work hard at volunteering as they understand the importance of being involved with their community.

As the community and world evolves, Longleaf knows philanthropy is also changing. What was once based on an individual act of kindness and goodwill evolved into collective giving for people who shared a passion for community. “We use a democratic process in all of our decision making. So as the group grows and changes, the models we are using now may not be the ones the next group will want to use. But that’s the whole point – by bringing many voices together, we are going to think of strategies and realize projects we never could have done on our own.”

Giving Circles are established by donors who are interested in pooling their charitable dollars to make a greater impact in the community. Giving circles have memberships, their own activities and events, and make grants as a group. Several giving circles and committee-advised funds are operating currently at the Foundation. Read more about the current Giving Circles making a difference in the Triangle in partnership with the Foundation on our website at www.trianglecf.org.