Members of the Giving Circle of HOPE (GCH) have much to celebrate as they have reached a milestone in their 12-year history: $1 million in grant monies invested in local non-profits, along with thousands of hours of donated volunteer time.
Founded by Diana Katz, Joan Kasprowicz, Mary Narayan, and Linda Strup in 2004, the GCH has provided 125 grants benefiting 52 charitable organizations that serve the needs of the community. From youth development and education to mental health and aging issues, poverty relief, and employment assistance, GCH has made contributions with far-reaching results and impact.
“Working together, we accomplish a lot”
Before GCH was founded, Diana, Joan, Mary, and Linda used to get together to do fundraisers to help others in need, but it was the unfortunate car accident of the son of one of Joan’s friends that made them start a big event to help the injured child.
“The [boy’s] dad had also lost his job, so we would have fundraisers, yard sales, and different events to help the family,” said Joan. “We had a great time while we were working to raise the money, so we figured, why not do something a little more permanent? We got together and decided to form GCH.”
Mary explained that thanks to Linda’s research, they learned about “giving circles,” which Wikipedia defines as “a form of participatory philanthropy where groups of individuals donate their own money or time to a pooled fund, decide together where to give these away to charity or community projects and, in doing so, seek to increase their awareness of and engagement in the issues covered by the charity or community project. Many circles, in addition to donating money, also contribute their time and skills to support local causes.”
“We realized that the Reston community was very giving and actively volunteering. It was our aim to provide a framework that was easy and efficient,” said Linda. “Giving circles were becoming a national movement, and we thought it was perfect for Northern Virginia. We paired collective giving with hands-on service to empower all of us to create positive change.”
“It’s really rewarding that we’ve been able to make more people aware and more interested in helping others.” – Joan
In January 2004, the Giving Circle of HOPE was born. HOPE stands for Helping Other People Every day.
“We focus on small organizations with budgets under $2 million that focus on human services; they have to be helping people,” Diana explained. “I think we have given to more than 50 organizations, including Empowered Women International, Connections for Hope, Immigration Forum, Just Neighbors, All Ages Read Together, among others. They’re in Herndon and Reston.”
“We also wanted to educate people in the community as to what the needs are and who the different non-profits are, and what they are doing,” said Joan. “Part of our mission is educating, bringing members in, and getting people interested in helping out. You don’t have to have a lot of money—or any money—you can just volunteer.”
“I loved creating a new model of philanthropy and enabling so many people to be involved in improving our community. Obviously, reaching $1 million of giving is pretty rewarding, too!” – Linda
More than 100 members year-round
Members of the GCH donate money, time, and resources, sharing one thing in common: A love for helping those in need. Membership costs one dollar a day, and members are divided by voting members (which are those who donate money) and service members. “Service members don’t give the $365 [a year] but participate in our programs and in the shelter,” said Diana.
GCH hosts events to support the community and raise funds to help other nonprofits. Main events include Empty Bowls, Christmas in April, Kid’s Club, and Flashes of HOPE.
Empty Bowls is the largest fundraising event hosted by the GCH to help fight hunger in the community. Local potters donate handmade, decorated bowls, and local restaurants and bakers provide the food. Each bowl—a beautiful work of art—serves as a reminder that there are empty bowls throughout the community. With each ticket purchased, attendees receive a bowl and a meal of soup, bread, and dessert. Funds raised are donated to Food to Others, a nonprofit Northern Virginia organization that provides food to families in need.
“In the end, I think the same thing that we said in our first interview with CBS: We know we cannot change the world, but we can change our corner of the world.” – Diana
“Christmas in April is about rebuilding together, by redoing someone’s house, repainting it, doing yard work, and getting it spiffed up,” said Mary. “Also, for many years we’ve been doing the Kids Clubs, where members and volunteers go to shelters and volunteer and do craft projects.”
Flashes of Hope brings monthly photo shoots to Inova Fairfax Hospital and Childrens’ Hospital outpatient clinic, for families dealing with pediatric cancer. Commercial photographers and professional makeup stylists volunteer their services so that each family receives a portfolio and CD of images free of charge.
GCH also meets once a year with local organizations like the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) to give educational panels. The founding members also help create other giving circles and even travel to other locations to help them in the process of starting a circle up.
“To create a network that is a catalyst for positive change”
The idea that started with one goal, to save a boy’s life, and the hard work of the founding members have come to fruition with this milestone of reaching $1 million given away to people in need.
“Joan always had this metaphor for what we were trying to do, which was build the snowball so that we could have a snowball effect. It’s grown bigger than us, and sometimes, we didn’t even know how it grew, or how big of an impact it’s made. But it’s not important that we know that; what is important is that we created the spirit, or gave the opportunity for that spirit to grow,” said Mary.
A one million celebration open to everyone
On November 17, the GCH will celebrate their one $1 million milestone with a party, and everybody is invited! The event will be held at Refraction, in the Reston Town Center, where guests can enjoy hors d’oeuvres, wine, and community engagement. People will have the opportunity to donate $25 at the entrance, and at the end of the night, all the money raised will be given to three different non-profits.
“What I find most rewarding is the idea that you start something that helps people you don’t even know.” – Mary
Twelve years and $1 million later, four friends not only have made a difference in the lives of many people, but have experienced the joy of giving. At the end, that’s the most rewarding thing of all.
More information about the Giving Circle of HOPE can be found at www.givingcircleofhope.org
REFERENCE: 1. “The Impact of Giving Together: a snapshot of a study on giving circles’ influence on philanthropic & civic behaviors, knowledge & attitudes”. Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.