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Stepping into Leadership

February 06, 2018

Being part of a giving circle revolutionized the way I give. In 2015-2016, I was a member of Roots & Branches, a young adult giving circle at Rose Community Foundation in Denver, Colorado. Previously, I gave small amounts of money to organizations focused on the issues I cared about, or in response to a tragedy. Prior to participating in a giving circle, my knee-jerk reaction to hearing about a crisis on the news was to pick an organization responding to the problem, donate, and never look back. However, I knew almost nothing about the organizations to which I gave. Roots & Branches helped me experience the value of creative and informed giving. Today, I'm willing to donate more money because I trust my philanthropic choices.

When I heard that Rose Community Foundation was offering a giving circle leader training with Amplifier, I was nervous to step up. Being a leader of something new brings up old worries: Will I be successful? Do I actually know what I’m doing? What did I forget to consider before committing to this?

I decided to give it a shot because I was motivated to take what I had learned about giving and share it with my friends and family. I knew that if I was successful, we would all be pushed out of our comfort zones. Even so, the result of our giving circle was not what I ever would have expected.

Summer Convening 2017My giving circle was comprised of 10 people that I personally recruited, family and friends who were completely new to giving circles. In our first meeting, we chose our core values: respect, empowerment, and safety. Next, we looked at our issue areas. Initially, our group expressed interest in donating to organizations in spaces like homelessness, women’s health, addiction, and food security. One person had a different idea: youth recreation activities. At first, the group was disinterested. However, as we continued our discussion and dug into our values, we kept circling back to it. We talked fondly about experiences from our childhood playing sports and going to summer camp and the positive impact it had on our lives. We wanted every child to have experiences like that, regardless of socioeconomic background. Ultimately, we settled on two focus areas: a primary one of youth recreation and secondarily, homelessness.

After this meeting, I was afraid that not everyone in the group was on board with the decision. Throughout our conversations, we realized more and more the value in exploring an issue like youth recreation that gets less attention and visibility in our community.

During our second meeting, each person brought 3-5 organizations to discuss as possible grantees. We learned through our research that approximately two thirds of children don’t have access to a nearby park. We also learned how lack of transportation is a huge problem for youth and a significant barrier to getting involved in outdoor activities.

In our final meeting, we decided to give the bulk of our funds to a local organization, CityWILD, which creates outdoor experiences for kids. We considered giving the remainder of our funds to an organization fighting homelessness, but had trouble finding one we agreed on. Ultimately, we contacted a homelessness organization, Denver Homeless Out Loud, to see if we could purchase any tangible goods to support their work. We learned that the organization needed to buy new microwaves for their community space, so we donated our funds to cover the cost of the microwaves.

I never would have guessed that our giving circle would end up donating to support youth sports and that we would give microwaves rather than funds, but I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. The group learned so much about creative and informed giving. For my part, the insecurities that I felt initially have evaporated and I have more confidence in my impact as a leader in my community.