GCHopeLogoThis is the first of four blog posts from Joan Kasprowicz and Diana Katz, co-founders of the Giving Circle of HOPE at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, celebrating its 10th anniversary this season.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a buzz about a new trend in philanthropy: collective giving. It was best exemplified by giving circles: groups (mostly women) who pooled their money and decided together how to give it away. They were at their core grant-making groups that were grassroots in nature.  Giving circles caught the attention of researchers and foundations because they increased the donor pool and were contributing to the tune of $100M a year to philanthropic causes!

The Giving Circle of Hope (GCH) was one of those giving circles, a small group of like-minded friends who wanted to make a difference. Formally launched in 2004, the GCH had as its mission to “help people in need in Northern Virginia,” with goals to increase volunteerism and philanthropic giving, build community, encourage self-sufficiency, and to build a network that is a catalyst for positive change. The latter turned out to be a prophetic choice of words.

At the time, the one thing that made the GCH unique among giving circles was that it also engaged in service projects. From a teacher-initiated reading program for children at Embry Rucker Shelter, Relay for Life teams, Happy Hats, a Rebuilding Together day, and similar service events, to a program which helps feed free-and-reduced lunch school children on weekends (Helping Hungry Kids), the GCH members were active and engaged from the start.  

The (mostly unintended) benefit of service was that as members built relationships with nonprofits they partnered with and the clients they served, they also gained a better understanding of the needs in Northern Virginia, how those needs relate to each other and even more importantly, who is working to alleviate those needs most effectively.

Today, almost ten years later, the four founders and over one hundred members of the GCH are more active than ever: overall they have increased the size of their monetary contributions, they are passionate about continuing to bring positive change to the community, and they continue to inspire others to become grassroots philanthropists as members of the GCH.  

There is a new buzzword for philanthropy in the 2010s: catalytic giving.  We are discovering that this new trend is just a natural development for the GCH. In the next blog, read how the GCH now adds this form of philanthropy to its years of service and collective giving.