While not a new concept, giving circles have become an increasingly popular and important form of philanthropy, allowing a group of individuals to combine resources to have a larger funding impact on an organization or issue area. We believe in the power of collective giving to make great change, and are proud to administer and work in partnership with several giving circles at the Foundation.

Interview and story by Hiral Patel, interviewees are The Beehive Collective co-chairs Anna Bryant (A) and Brittany Iery (B). Photo of the 2018 Board courtesy of The Beehive Collective.

Where did the idea of this giving circle start? Especially with a focus on supporting the development of women in the region?

A: The Beehive Collective was founded in 2008 after a group of local women from the nonprofit world decided that they wanted to make a significant impact in Raleigh by pooling their resources. The mission, in short, was to instill a sense of philanthropy in young people, to build a stronger community, and to empower women leaders.

Why is it important for women to give back as philanthropists?

B: We have such a strong group of amazing women who make up the Beehive and it’s inspiring! I think young women in Raleigh want to feel connected and grounded to their community, and philanthropy is a huge part of that.

A: Women have a special voice in the community, and I think it’s so important to empower that voice. These women are empowered by being part of the process from beginning to end. They choose what cause we give to, the organization and programs we fund, they contribute to fundraising efforts, and are able to see their monetary contribution turned into something impactful right in their own community. This level of empowerment hopefully engages them strongly in philanthropy- which means our community has female voices in the giving space for the future!

You have two grants: a large grant with a different theme each year and a small grant focused on women’s empowerment and leadership. Why do you believe these issue(s)/theme(s) are critical?

B: One of my favorite things about being a Bee is that I feel like I’m making an impact in many kinds of communities. Our impact is being felt in those different communities through our large grant. It really makes me feel a deeper connection to Raleigh because I get insight into what is truly happening and who is doing the work in these areas.

A: Women’s empowerment is a fundamental part of our collective, anchored by focusing our small grant exclusively around that theme. Since we lift women up within our organization, it naturally follows that we want to pollinate that same value in our wider community. We believe women’s voices are crucial in moving a community forward, and that historically they haven’t been well heard.  We know that having women in leading positions in industry and government can bring a positive impact by increasing the diversity of opinions, and we want to see that diversity felt all throughout Raleigh.  Empowered women are more likely to speak up and express their opinions!  We also understand that one of the best ways to start reducing the barriers that women face in our society is to have more women leaders.  Our small grant is our way of continually supporting the community groups that are working to empower the future women leaders of Raleigh.

From membership meetings to the “Kick Ass Ladies Club,” how do these events benefit members?

B: They’re empowering! It’s hard to leave our membership meetings and the “Kick Ass Ladies Club” and not feel empowered and motivated to give back and do more for Raleigh.

A: Empowerment and connection! Membership meetings are a chance for our members to get to know each other and to hear about the incredible work they have funded or decide how we get to help our community next. It’s also a chance to network and get to know women who are like-minded.  Our theme panel is an opportunity to learn more about the issues we’re funding, as well as to hear from and meet community leaders who are working to fix those issues. And the “Kick Ass Ladies Club” is basically the best natural high you never knew you were missing – you get to hang out with old and new friends, network with some amazing community leaders, and get inspired by stories of triumph from real women.

How do you stay connected with the community?

A: It’s a little more indirect through a giving circle – instead of being connected directly to the populations that benefit from our fundraising, we’re connected to the community experts. Our members bring their community experience (from industry and non-profit professionals to mothers and students) to our process at each stage.  We also partner with local businesses for our events.  During our grants cycle, we learn so much about local programs, and we revisit our grantees after one year to learn how they benefited from our funds.  And our theme panel, an event we host each year to educate our membership about the year’s giving theme, gives our members a chance to hear directly from those community experts.

What are some challenges of a giving circle? How do you tackle them?

B: I think one area that we find a little challenging is making sure that we’re keeping our members engaged. Because our large grant changes every year, we might get folks only interested in becoming a member because they love the theme for the year. That’s why we really try to get as many of our members as we can involved in our different committees. We’re constantly looking for new ways to make sure we’re retaining both new and legacy Bees!

A: I think we struggle with the same problem most non-profits do, not being able to do as much as we want each year. We’re an all-volunteer organization, so we can only do so much each year with the time our members donate. We have to balance our volunteer resources between keeping our foundation strong, growing, and improving.  We have many passionate, excited, and talented volunteers, so there are always new ideas for how to make a bigger impact in our community that we have to approach more slowly than we’d like to.

What’s something you want our readers to come away with from this interview?

B: What a giving circle is! I think it’s a concept that a lot of folks don’t really know about or fully understand. I know I didn’t until I started getting more involved with the Beehive. Essentially, a giving circle is a group of individuals that donate their own money and time to a pooled fund and then decide together what charity or community group to grant the funds to.

A: How powerful a giving circle can be.  It’s not just about being able to give away more money once it’s pooled- the Beehive Collective offers our membership a stronger connection to the community and opportunities to become leaders in our community.