In an effort to support friends who had been diagnosed with advanced cancer, a group of women from Rye, New York rallied around them and formed SOUL RYEDERS®, a volunteer-led organization that raises awareness and helps friends, family and neighbors who are impacted by cancer.
Over time, SOUL RYEDERS developed seven programs that support individuals and families from diagnosis through treatment, recovery, and survivorship. As they grew, they decided that in addition to raising money for their own programs, they would form a giving circle to help fund other local cancer-related initiatives.
SOUL RYEDERS’ unique model is a key part of its overall strategy. By awarding grants to other local organizations, they are able to achieve two goals: creating a network of referrals for community members with cancer, and having a bigger impact than the programs that SOUL RYEDERS has capacity to run internally. SOUL RYEDERS challenges itself on the fundraising front so they can help hundreds of people each year through their own programs and thousands per year through their grantees.
The SOUL RYEDERS Giving Circle was formed in 2015 and currently has almost 200 members. It is a three-year commitment of at least $1,000 annually. The grantmaking process is led by their grant committee—a group of dedicated volunteers in charge of researching and awarding grants. Every year, the SOUL RYEDERS Giving Circle allocates approximately $100,000 in grants to fund local cancer-related support services.
Here are three giving circle tips from SOUL RYEDERS’ founder, Sandy Samberg:
Make it fun and social. “Being part of our giving circle is a rewarding, empowering, educational, and social experience. In addition to hands-on volunteering and serving on our grant committee, each year we have a cocktail party to cultivate new members and an appreciation event, which is a group hike. We head to Beacon, New York on a chartered bus, hike Mt. Beacon and then have a celebratory happy hour at a boutique hotel bar. It’s an incredible bonding experience—and a great workout!”
Create opportunities for your giving circle members to learn and grow. “Serving on our grant committee is a valuable learning experience. We share our opinions and personal experiences and then collectively decide how to allocate our annual grant budget. For several grant committee members, it is the first time they have been involved with a charity beyond writing checks.”
For anyone who wants to start a giving circle: go for it! “You have nothing to lose and so much to gain! Be creative. It is not one-size-fits-all. Customize it according to your group’s interests and tweak it over time. Have fun with it. Draw meaning and purpose from it. You won’t regret it!”