Everyone knows that two hands are better than one. So how about 200 hands?
Across the globe, women have been joining forces to create “giving circles” that pool resources within their community to raise awareness for the tough issues that are often overlooked.
Locally, 100 Women Strong is a giving circle and an initiative of Central Florida Foundation. The foundation connects caring people who want to invest in the community with initiatives that improve the quality of lives in Central Florida. To be part of 100 Women Strong, members make an annual tax-deductible gift of $1,100 to a pooled fund, and together they research and identify where the grants will make the biggest impact in the community.
“The power of giving circles, such as 100 Women Strong, is in the concept of collective giving. Each individual can make a difference, but when a group of people combine their resources and work with experts to really understand how best to invest those resources, they can have a much larger impact and even fix some of the problems in the community,” Leslie Hartog, co-chair of 100 Women Strong, says.
The group had a very strong start in 2006 but saw attendance decline during the recession and when some key leaders moved out of the area.
However, these Central Florida women continued to pull together and saw a revitalization of the circle around 2010, according to Jean Siegfried, who is one of the earliest members.
“We were able to partner with some of the other agencies that had money, who – when they saw that 100 Women Strong was willing to put in 7 or 8 thousand dollars – were willing to put in that money too,” Siegfried says. “When that started happening, I think, it gave 100 Women Strong a lot of credibility.”
For the past 10 years, 100 Women Strong members have researched and identified initiatives that have helped improve the lives of women and children in Central Florida. They have supported organizations like Harbor House with a program to identify and prevent domestic violence by reporting a crime and the Foundation for Foster Children to fund a position for an advocate for teenagers about to age out of the system, among others. Since 2006, 100 Women Strong has invested more than $500,000 in local initiatives.
“We’re not just writing a check to a grant,” Avani Desai, co-chair of 100 Women Strong, says. “We bring in experts, we sit around a table and brainstorm ideas about how we can solve a problem, but what we are looking for, like all great investors, is a return on investments. The only difference is we aren’t financial investors. We know we’ve done something positive when we can see the social return of investments in our community with our women and children.”
For more information, visit https://cffound.org/explore/100_women_strong/