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Full Circle News


May 2024

Message from Leadership

Happy AAWGT Grant Voting!

This is the month that’s all about member voting and embracing collective impact at AAWGT. MEMBERS: On May 1 you should have received your grant voting instructions and the link to the online ballot. Don’t forget to submit your vote by end of the day on May 6.  

May makes us happy for many reasons. May Day … Mother’s Day … Jewish Heritage month … and, at AAWGT, it’s the month we join together to vote on awarding a record $190,000 in 2024 to community organizations and projects that share our mission and passion to improve the quality of life for women and families in Anne Arundel County (AAC).  

Let’s celebrate the fastest growing trend in philanthropy  giving circles! Collective giving is kick-starting a new era of philanthropy that is collaborative, intentional, democratic, joyful, and rooted in trust. (Philanthropy  

Members: Join us on zoom, May 8, 7:00pm, to learn the results of our collective voting and celebrate our 2024 grants! Register here.

We hope April showers are yielding your May flowers — in baskets … bouquets … gardens … and giving. We appreciate the partnership with our members and with the full AAC community. We are stronger together. Come join us at AAWGT!

In service,

Margaret Davis, President
Michelle Hellstern, Vice President

With AAWGT’s focus on Women and Families, let’s celebrate the mothers of Anne Arundel County and the strength of their role in the family and its strength.

Giving Circles

Why Giving Circles are the Fastest-Growing form of Philanthropy Right Now

Felix Salmon, author of Axios Markets

The fastest-growing form of philanthropy in America is collective giving — where individuals, usually women, pool their funds and their decision-making.

Why it matters: This kind of structured giving provides a glimpse of what a democratic, egalitarian philanthropy looks like.

The big picture: A detailed new report from Philanthropy Together, based on extensive interviews, focus groups, and surveys, finds that the philanthropy practiced by giving circles is very different from the top-down practices of foundations funded by billionaires.

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  • The leaders and members of the groups are overwhelmingly women, and often women of color. 60% of groups are entirely women.
  • The charities they support tend to be small community organizations. The giving is overwhelmingly local.
  • Rather than concentrate on metrics like “bang for the buck,” the groups tend to be more concerned with racial equity and inclusion.
  • Donations are broadly unrestricted. In the jargon, it’s “trust-based philanthropy” that isn’t tied to outcomes or specific projects.

Zoom out: One thing the giving groups tend to have in common with old-school philanthropists is a stated commitment to "change not charity."

That means they see themselves at the philanthropic end of the charity-philanthropy spectrum — not giving to the needy directly, so much as building up the institutions that will create a stronger community. The giving groups themselves become part of the civic infrastructure: These are formal institutions, often with paid staff, rather than informal ad-hoc groups of friends.

Members of the groups generally start to self-identify as philanthropists only after joining a giving circle, even though they regularly donated to charity beforehand.

By the numbers: The number of giving circles, and the number of people who are part of one, tripled between 2007 and"> 2016 — and then tripled again between 2016 and 2023.

Today, there are roughly 4,000 such groups, with 370,000 members. They gave away more than $3 billion over a five-year period ending in 2023. “The movement is now on a trajectory to double again in the next five years,” finds the 2024 report. Most members donate less than $1,000 per year.

Between the lines: Members of the groups reported significant improvement to their physical, mental, and spiritual health as a result of joining. In an increasingly atomizing world, these groups create real community.

Members also became more likely to become actively engaged in local civic institutions. “Collective giving is inherently a social, long-term, and community-based experience,” write the authors.

The bottom line: “Collective giving is democratizing and diversifying philanthropy,” concludes the report.

Coming Soon!

Grants Voting (Members Only), May 1-6

Membership Meeting, 2024 Grants Announcements, May 8, 7 pm, via Zoom. Members register here.

Grantee Spotlight

Start The Adventure in Reading

Start The Adventure In Reading (STAIR) partners second graders reading below grade level with volunteers who work with them one-on-one to build their self-confidence and improve their reading skills. Originally a mission project for First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, STAIR began tutoring children at the Stanton Center in 2006. They have since grown to an independent 501(c)3 and currently run their program in 12 schools, engaging 200 volunteers and serving 100 children with an effective, AACPS-approved curriculum where students improve an average of 4-7 reading levels each year.

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STAIR volunteers work one-on-one with each child for two and a half hours every week — reading to and with them; strengthening and building their literacy skills through an engaging curriculum; playing instructional games; and mentoring them as they grow in confidence and self-esteem. They help students build home libraries throughout the year and keep them engaged with reading over the summer with backpacks full of their favorite books. Each STAIR child will leave the program with at least 25 books of their own, improved reading skills and — hopefully — a lifelong love of reading. Last year, volunteers spent more than 10,000 hours with students, a reading gift valued at more than $360,000 to the AACPS system.

The generous grant received from AAWGT enabled STAIR to strengthen their program by purchasing a new curriculum, hiring a new full-time staff member, and updating their teaching resources. Their new phonics-based curriculum provides explicit instruction in decoding, encoding, fluency, and comprehension skills. Mid-year assessments showed a 44% increase in student reading skills and a 41% increase in spelling since the start of the year. They are excited to see how much more progress their children are able to make in the final semester of the program! The new site manager is a seasoned and dynamic reading specialist who supports tutors and tailors STAIR instruction to meet students’ individual needs. The grant also helped purchase attractive, organized reading carts for each site that contain leveled books, student totes with curriculum and all teaching materials, student binders, and group games.

“With gratitude for the support of Anne Arundel Women Giving Together, they are shaping a brighter future for our children and our county!

Member Highlight:
Meet Lily Openshaw

Lily Openshaw is a registered professional civil and environmental engineer with degrees from Georgia Tech and Johns Hopkins University. She began her career as a naval officer in the elite Civil Engineer Corps and then worked for a national environmental engineering consulting firm. When her children were young, Lily worked for Annapolis as the engineering project manager for Capital Projects. Since 2012, she’s been president of Chesapeake Blue and Green, an engineering services firm with a concentration in civil and environmental infrastructure projects.

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Lily was invited to join AAWGT by Carol Cronin, who worked with her on the Founding Board of CCM. “Carol told me there was a group of women who had started a giving circle to pool their resources and assist families in need in our community through charitable grants. I thought that was an amazing idea and was excited to join the group.” Lily joined in 2007 and now volunteers with grants selection and grants implementation. “I am very grateful for the dedication, professionalism, and passion our members bring to fulfill AAWGT’s mission of helping women and families in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. This clarity of mission and the quality of the women who contribute to that mission through donating time and money are the organization’s greatest strengths. I’d love to see AAWGT increase publicity about the amazing work it does. I certainly encourage members to review the grant proposals on this year’s ballot, and VOTE!

Lily is very active in community nonprofits. She currently serves as president of the Bay Ridge Civic Association and is on the boards of the national Public Works Experience, the Scenic Rivers Land Trust, and the Chesapeake Crossroads Heritage Association. Formerly, Lily was chairman of the board of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, and president of the Founding Board of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum (CCM), among other non-profit leadership roles.

Lily and her husband of 40 years, David, have four children: Elliana, Sophia, John David and Regina. In her free time, Lily enjoys her book club (of 30 yrs.) and is an avid USTA league tennis player and master gardener.

A Warm Welcome to Our Newest Members — A Banner Month!

Peggy Sue Atterbury, Marcia Belmont, Tracy Bottiglieri, Pam Bukowski, Rosalind Calvin, Catherine Clark, Sarah Connell, Jenni Davies, Yvonne Gentry-Cottrell, Beverly Gordon, Angela Green, Nannetta Hall, Mary Jean Herron, Alicia Jenkins, Kaitlyn Keller, Ellen Libby, Ruby Logan, Denise Matteson, Susan Nugent, Jan Pastrone, Myriam Ramsey, Catherine Rees, Cathy Schmidt, Tewanda Shepherd, Katie Skiff, Carol Stern, Pam Toomey, Maureen VanBesien

Find us on Facebook:
Anne Arundel Women Giving Together |
AAWGT is a component fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County
AAWGT is a member of Philanos: Accelerating Philanthropy through Women’s Collective Giving

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