We are certainly living in interesting times. I’m sure many generations have said that exact same thing, but these are my interesting times, and they are relevant to me.

As I listen to the chaos and divisiveness that seems to be everywhere, I’m struck by the fact that none of it serves those people in my community who need my help now. And having always believed that the best way to pull yourself out of a funk is to step outside of your own bubble and help others, I’m channeling my frustration into serving my community. As the old saying goes, “Don’t just stand there, do something!”

This is even more critical in light of this administration’s proposed tax reform plan. Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on or if you’re in the rafters just looking on with wonder, the fact remains that the private sector will be needed even more than before to address the needs of our community in major areas such as the arts, education, and human services. Major dollars, not just small donations, will be needed to fill the void left from a potential lack of government funding.

As a woman who has been abundantly blessed with a wonderful career, decent financial resources, some time on my hands, and some God-given talent, paying all this forward is not only the right thing to do, but it is oh-so-therapeutic during this time, when I tend to feel a lack of control over these “interesting times” in our country. As I have searched for effective ways to move the needle for local nonprofits, for the past six years I have found a creative form of charitable giving that meets my personal criteria for effective philanthropy.

Women-powered philanthropy through collective giving grant-making is a rapidly growing movement that empowers women to join their financial resources to make large, impactful grants to local nonprofits. As women become a stronger economic force in our society, we are stepping up to the plate to invest in our communities in a very big way. 

Today there are more than 1,300 “giving circles,” comprised of more than 46,000 women who are moving the needle through large, transformative grants. While there are a few organizational variations of these giving circles, most share the following elements:

  • Pooled funds made up of members’ equal contributions collected annually
  • Formal grant-making processes led by members
  • Democratic decision-making process that includes voting by the membership to select annual grant recipients
  • Members decide their own level of involvement. You can be as involved or “uninvolved” as you wish.

Impact San Antonio follows the Impact 100 model, one of the most popular forms of women’s collective giving grant-making groups, and has invested more than $2.2 million since its inception in 2004. For every 100 members, this equates to a $100,000 grant awarded to nonprofits serving Bexar County and surrounding areas in one of five categories: Arts & Culture; Education; Environment/Recreation/Preservation; Family; and Health & Wellness. Note that these are critical areas of any thriving community, and ones that may be at risk of losing future federal funding. 

With 100% of my $1,000 annual membership contribution going toward the pooled funds, this is one of the most effective forms of philanthropy I’ve experienced in all my years of charitable giving. In addition to having an equal voice in how the funds will be distributed, I also have the assurance that the dollars awarded will be spent as intended, since volunteer members serve as liaisons to the grant recipients. This makes my philanthropy both personal and effective.

The vision of Impact San Antonio is to have enough members – at least 500 – to award five $100,000 high impact grants, one in each of the five focus areas, to make a substantial and positive change in our community. Last year, Impact San Antonio awarded four grants for the first time in its history. Our “drive for five” grants is underway and will continue until our membership deadline of June 15.

I encourage all women in the greater San Antonio area to become a significant force of transformation through Impact San Antonio. Our community needs us now, more than ever before. 

Women interested in learning more about Impact San Antonio are invited to attend its Spring Fling Membership Event at the San Antonio Garden Center on Tuesday, April 11 from 6-8:30 p.m. We will feature a panel discussion with Judges Lisa Jarrett, Daphne Previti Austin, and Annette Rodrigues, CEO of The Children’s Shelter. Registration information is on our website at Impactsanantonio.org.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

Beverley McClure

Beverley McClure is president of the board of directors of Impact San Antonio.