Dollar-a-day giving circle creates new philanthropists in Memphis

Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 2:52 pm
Julia McDonald

“You can do a lot with $1.” A simple but powerful phrase at the heart of GiVE 365, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis’ dollar-a-day giving circle. Formed in 2010, GiVE 365 unites and informs emerging philanthropists to make a collective impact on Greater Memphis. Members donate $365 a year, pool their money with others, and vote on both an annual grant making theme and grant recipients.

This post is part of the #CF100 Series of blog posts. The Council on Foundations is marking the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first community foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, by highlighting the roles of community foundations with this series.

GiVE 365 was created by a group of community leaders and the Community Foundation to encourage philanthropy in a new group of donors. We looked to other successful examples, like the Future Funds of both the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, when creating our giving circle. GiVE 365 originated with a small group of influential Midtown and Downtown Memphis residents, and grew over time through word-of-mouth recommendations to their concentric personal and professional networks.

Though originally conceived as a group for young professionals, GiVE 365 has organically grown into a diverse group of individuals, couples, families, and businesses united in their desire to pool their money with others and learn more about nonprofits in Memphis. Members are in their 20s through 70s and live in neighborhoods across the Memphis area.

One of the hallmarks of the program is that GiVE 365 membership is inclusive and flexible. Members can engage in a way that fits their schedules and lifestyles. Some members just contribute financially. Others serve on the grant review teams that research nonprofits and narrow the field of grant applicants to finalists. Some members regularly attend monthly GiVE 365 events from meet-ups at local bars to volunteer opportunities at the grantees.

The grant process is the centerpiece of the GiVE 365 calendar. Members submit ideas for an annual grant making theme, which are voted upon online and announced at a Kickoff in June. The 2014 grant making theme is Collaboration for Change: partnerships that support creative problem-solving in the community. Grants will support the work of two or more organizations working together on a project or program benefiting the Memphis community. Each finalist will make a 3-minute “pitch” to the GiVE 365 membership at an August event. The members will vote for their favorites online; grant awards will be announced in September.

Since its inception, GiVE 365 has grown to more than 250 members and has provided nearly $225,000 in grants to local community groups and initiatives. In addition to the grant pool, GiVE 365 has grown its endowment to nearly $360,000 in its first four years of operation.

Its 250+ members, 1,300+ Facebook fans, and 2,200+ Twitter followers have connected with the power of collective impact and the access to nonprofits that GiVE 365 offers. GiVE 365 breaks down the traditional notion of “philanthropy” to introduce members and their families to the important work being done by nonprofits in our community and to empower them to make informed, meaningful decisions on directing their dollars to improve the Greater Memphis area.

Julia McDonald is Director of Marketing & Communications at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.

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