Giving Circles Date Back Hundreds of Years

2014  YWCA Greater Cleveland Circle of Women Breakfast

2014 YWCA Greater Cleveland Circle of Women Breakfast

By Lisa Paul Sierk, Vice President of Advancement, A growing trend in philanthropic fundraising is the giving circle. These can feel new, but are actually built on old traditions dating back hundreds of years to mutual aid societies and other forms of giving for the community. In the United States, giving circles were initially composed of women; they are now more diverse in race, age and gender, although women continue to make up the majority of members.

The structure of the circles can be informal or formal. On the informal side, circles may vote and choose an organization to support and each member writes an individual check – such as the Cleveland Colectivo or the 100+ Women Who Care. Formal circles may have their money housed at a local community foundation and have staff that support the work of the circle. Giving circles can range in size from a handful of members to several hundred; such giving circles are on the rise. Members pool their money to make grants to local nonprofit groups, realizing that one hefty contribution can have an immediate influence in a community.


In 2008, YWCA Greater Cleveland launched our Nurturing Independence and Aspirations (NIA) program to support some of our community’s most vulnerable youth – those transitioning from failing systems, such as foster care, many of whom have experienced homelessness before the age of 25. And in 2009, YWCA started their Circle… the Circle of Women.

For five years, this breakfast event has gathered engaged citizens – primarily women – to pool their resources and raise critical funds to support the vital needs of these young women. The dollars raised has allowed YWCA to pay for everything from bus transportation to assure these individuals have access to supportive services, to move-in costs for those who will reside in one of our 23 permanent supportive housing units, to the food and essential supplies necessary for daily living that are not provided to them by anyone else.  The costs associated with these needs are outlined below:

Independence Place provides permanent supportive housing for homeless young adults, many of whom have aged out of foster care.

YWCA’s Independence Place provides permanent supportive housing for homeless young adults, many of whom have aged out of foster care.

  • $150 covers five months of bus transportation for three teens to and from YWCA youth services programs.
  • $250 provides all essential non-food items for tenants for one month (e.g. toliet paper, cleaning supplies, etc.).
  • $500 covers the entire moving cost and lodging kit – sheets, pans, microwave –  for a new tenant.
  • $750 fills the gap each month for additional food needs for 23 tenants and seven children
  • $1750 covers the cost for a tenant to move into self-sufficiency, which includes first month’s rent, utility deposit and moving van.

Join our Circle – this year’s Circle of Women breakfast will be on September 16. Limited Table Host opportunities remain and Table Hosts are currently recruiting guests. Your gift will make a difference in the lives of some of this community’s most vulnerable citizens.

To learn more about our Circle, or to make a gift, contact Lisa Paul Sierk, YWCA’s Vice President, Advancement, at or 216.881.6878 x262. Additionally, get more information about this year’s Circle of Women breakfast by clicking here, or go to the YWCA Greater Cleveland website.

What vital needs in your community do you support?

There is nothing so wise as a circle, nothing as healing as a women’s circle. Rainer Marie Rilke

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