Changing Philanthropy’s Narrative Through Community Involvement

By Isabella Rolz   |   May 20, 2024
As hundreds of philanthropists traveled to Chicago for Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s Annual Symposium in 2023, members and supporters of collective giving groups gathered for an evening of connection. (Photo: Ana Miyares)

Philanthropy Together is a global nonprofit initiative that has reached hundreds of thousands of individuals through its work to diversify and democratize philanthropy through the power of collective giving. Its vision is to create a world filled with passionate and empowered people who collectively want to generate change.

The project was co-created with more than 100 collective giving leaders, researchers, and supporters from across the United States, with seed funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lodestar Foundation; it has since garnered support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Fidelity Charitable Catalyst Fund, and more. Since its formation in 2020, Philanthropy Together has grown and strengthened the collective giving movement, encouraging individuals to come together and pool their money and time to support the causes they most care about. 

Sara Lomelin, Philanthropy Together’s founding CEO, is a true believer that anyone and everyone can be a philanthropist. She’s reclaiming the true meaning of “philanthropy” as the love of humanity, and she has long been a proponent of the power of people pooling their resources to support issues and how that can be a catalyst for making the world a more equitable place. 

“My goal is that we come together and give together so that our contributions have a more significant impact, simultaneously creating a circle of relationships of individuals who want to make an impact to change the world. That is the power of collective giving,” says Lomelin.

Philanthropy Together focuses on four strategic areas:

“Fueled by a desire to empower Black women entrepreneurs, Elizabeth and I dreamt of launching a giving circle. The dream was made real with the support of the Philanthropy Together team and Launchpad for You. The online training offered practical tools and a supportive community where I could wrestle with my questions, draw inspiration from other giving circle founders, and gain the confidence to take the next step. Nearly a year later, we have completed our first grants cycle, awarding $5,000 to eight Black women entrepreneurs. I owe much of our success to Philanthropy Together’s platform and resources.”  – Shannon Jeffries, The Tanna Fund

1. Showcase the movement of collective giving to change the narrative of who is considered a philanthropist and how to give.

2. Scale participation and growth in collective giving groups globally.

3. Strengthen existing groups to shift practices to be more connected, equitable, and rooted in trust.

4. Sustain the collective giving movement by elevating the need for philanthropic infrastructure support for a long-term, vibrant field. 

The organization is catalyzing the field of collective giving, which includes many models of giving together including giving circles, collaborative funds, nonprofit-led circles, giving projects, women’s funds, and countless other models. With a mission to expand who and what gets funded, Philanthropy Together is ushering in a new era of philanthropy that is democratic, diverse, and powered by people acting in solidarity. 

For Lomelin, this work is personal.

“We didn’t know it at the time – my group of Latina moms and I – but this simple idea of leveraging all of our shared resources to do more good together had a name: a giving circle. A group of people who come together: everyone gives, everyone discusses, and everyone decides together where to channel their generosity,” Lomelin reflects on her time living in Dallas over a decade ago and starting the AHOrA giving circle. 

“AHOrA still exists today and has gone on to collectively give close to half a million dollars over the course of a decade to nonprofits focused on Latina moms and children. We didn’t have all the money in the world, but it wasn’t about having all the money in the world. It was making what we cared about heard. It was about the relationships we built, with each other, and with those working on the frontlines of change.”

Among the fundamental pillars of this movement are democratic values and the people’s civic participation. At a time when isolation, distrust, and polarization prevent social and proactive initiatives from happening, collective giving fosters spaces to practice democracy and build community connection.

“When you become aware of the issues of your local community, you get more involved and civically engaged,” says Lomelin.

In addition to shaping communities that are engaged in bringing about positive change, Lomelin also stresses the value of trusting each other. “To change the narrative of what we refer to as a philanthropist, we must be able to trust and from there, we build more resilient relationships,” she says.

Currently, more than 70% of giving circles are led by women. According to Lomelin, women tend to get involved more collaboratively and collectively.

At national and global levels, women’s movements have driven action for social changes. By pushing for change and accountability, women develop leadership skills which can lead some of them to enter and transform the political environment and thus become more civically engaged.

Women’s leadership contributes to overcoming cultural and institutional barriers around who can lead and the necessary characteristics to do so. “Over the years and through my experience with giving circles, I have seen how women learn to trust each other and build solid and lasting relationships,” says Lomelin.

Among its commitments for 2024, Philanthropy Together wants to continue demonstrating how collective giving is a vehicle for building trust across different communities and uplifting how this model can support grassroots, community-based nonprofits as early seed funders in their work. “We are going to focus on 16 states in the country and on different international projects to continue fulfilling our passion to empower individuals and strengthen civic engagement,” says Lomelin. “We look forward to connecting with hundreds of community leaders from around the world through our training programs and convenings.”


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Philanthropy Together is a global initiative, co-created by hundreds of collective giving leaders, to scale and strengthen a growing movement. We’re on a mission to diversify and democratize philanthropy.

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