In the five years since it was formed, the Women's Giving Circle of Harford has awarded more than $150,000 to nonprofits serving women and children in Harford County.
The group was founded by Jayne Klein and Marlene Lieb with a goal of engaging women of all generations in the power of community philanthropy to address the needs of women and families. What began as 16 founding members has grown to 132 members and, to date, 24 nonprofits in Harford County have received grants, including 11 this year totaling more than $43,000.
"I like the idea of women coming together, we call it the power of collaboration of coming together and showing their power," said Klein, a member the family that owns and operates the Klein's ShopRite stores and is known for its community philanthropy. "I felt like Harford County women were all doing things individually, but if we combined our money together we could have a great impact all together."
Lieb, a former associate vice president for continuing education and training at Harford Community College who is now a liaison for strategic partnership development at the college, serves on the board of directors of the HCC Foundation.
Lieb said it was because of her board membership on the Community Foundation of Harford County – and being made even more aware of the needs of the community – that she and Klein saw the need for a women's giving circle and established one for Harford County.
In celebration of its fifth anniversary, the Women's Giving Circle of Harford has planned "A Tribute to Women Who Give" on Thursday, Sept. 17, at Maryland Golf & Country Clubs near Bel Air. After a keynote address by Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, co-author of "Women & Philanthropy: Boldly Shaping a Better World," the Women's Giving Circle will present its 2015 grants to 11 nonprofits in Harford County.
"That can have a big impact," Klein said.
This year's recipients are: Arrow Child & Family Ministries, $4,000, for support of the Arrow Crossroads Community Equine Assisted Therapy Program; Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County, $4,000, for support of the SMART Girls program; CASA of Harford County, $5,000, for support of the Transition Aged Youth Initiative; Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna, $5,000, for support of the Homeownership Program – Women Rebuild; Harford Community Action Agency, $4,800, for support of the Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin'-By-World Program; Harford Community College Foundation, $2,960.78, for support of the Get Your Mind Moving Program; Harford Family House, $4,200, for support of the Wheels for Work Program; Inner County Outreach, $4,000, for support of the Trinise Jones Summer Day Camp; LASOS, $3,250, for support of the Enrich Program; Mason-Dixon Community Services, $3,500, for support of the Highland Summer Backpack Lunch Program; and Tabitha's House, $2,371, for support of the Sweet Dreams Program.
The Women's Giving Circle funds are held and managed by the Community Foundation of Harford County, as what is called a group donor-advised fund.
Community Foundation of Harford County - accredited by the Community Foundations National Standards Board, the nation's highest honor for philanthropic excellence - is a nonprofit supported by the community through donations, enabling individuals, families and businesses to leave a legacy to benefit the causes that matter on a local level. It is one of 14 community foundations in Maryland and one of 700 across the country.
Getting its start
The Women's Giving Circle of Harford County is Klein's "baby," she said.
Her goal, along with Lieb's, five years ago was to expose women in Harford County to the idea of philanthropy, Klein said.
Klein, who is on the board of the Baltimore giving circle, was serving on the board of the Harford County Community Foundation with Lieb. They invited 25 women to dinner at her house to discuss the possibility of setting up a women's giving circle in Harford. Twenty came.
She presented her idea to them and by the end of the night, most of them had committed. Within three months, the Harford group was organized, starting with 16 people.
"The idea really caught on. I think women really liked the idea of empowering themselves to make a difference," Klein said. "I've been able to work with some gracious, powerful women in the community... they're all focused on the goal of making Harford County a great place to live."
What's most rewarding to Klein, she said, is how much the group has grown in just five years, from 16 to 132 members, and that they have been able to give out $150,000.
How it works
How much money is given away each year depends on how many members are in the group.
"Our vision is to have more members and create more of an impact," Klein said. "The more members we have, the more money we can give away."
Each member contributes $500 and that is pooled to be distributed to groups that apply for a grant.
Of the money collected, 75 percent is given away, while 25 percent goes into an endowment fund, Klein said.
That fund, she said, is significant because it means "we will always have a fund for women and children. We'll be making a difference in the future, not only at the present time."
A grants committee, which any member can be on, reviews the grants and pulls out those that don't meet the criteria for one reason or another. Then each application is graded on a numerical system based on its impact, its financial stability and if they meet the mission of the Giving Circle.
The scores are combined and groups above the median line are considered for grants, but even those below have a chance, since any member can put its support to an organization at the circle's meeting where they discuss each group.
The applicants are narrowed to 10-15 and those are presented to the entire Giving Circle membership, which votes for or against awarding a grant.
"It's very organized and very regimented," Klein said.
Any non-profit organization with a 501(c)3 can apply, though Klein said they can't give everyone a grant.
More information about the Women's Giving Circle of Harford County may be found at cfharfordcounty.org/womens-giving-circle.
Giving Circle's impact
"The Women's Giving Circle of Harford County is a powerful example of an organization that is truly inclusive and meaningful and a positive movement of change for nonprofits serving women," Jodi Davis, president of the Women's Giving Circle, said. "In five years, we have been able to launch a successful women's donor fund that supports nonprofits today and also promises future support through a legacy endowment fund."
"We take pride in our commonalities, our goals, concerns and beliefs, and we also delight in our differences. A fifth anniversary is a significant milestone for any organization, and we look forward to celebrating and thanking the gracious and giving women who are members of the Women's Giving Circle of Harford County," Davis added.
Nicole Merrill, a transitional living therapist at Arrow Crossroads Community, shares how a grant awarded by the Women's Giving Circle of Harford County impacts the lives of children at her nonprofit.
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"When Arrow Crossroads Community's young women started equine assisted therapy, I witnessed timid and nervous young girls entering the arena with their five horses. Over the course of just three sessions, I soon saw confident, patient, willing and compassionate young women emerge," she said. "The leadership traits the young ladies have developed over such a short amount of time have transpired outside the arena, not only into their day-to-day lives, but into their personal sense of self-appreciation."