By VICTORIA TALBOT
September 02, 2008
If you have never heard of a “Giving Circle” it is a new trend in philanthropy that enables participants to donate their money or time in a pooled fund to causes that fit their own customized criteria.
Pacific Palisades residents Jill Weintraub, Debbie Schermer and Moira Tenzer formed Women Helping Youth (WHY) because the three women wanted a more meaningful way to give than just handing out their checks to charities.
“Jill, Debbie and I started WHY in August of 2006. We wanted to do something to ‘heal the world,’” said Tenzer, co-president of the organization. “We were all crazy busy, but for some reason we felt we needed to do more.”
They knew that if they combined their charitable donations of $1,000 each, together they would have $2,000 more ‘buying power’ than if they were alone. “We didn’t know how many would join us,” said Tenzer.
But they never imagined that their organization would give away more than $100,000 in the first two years.
In June, a grant was awarded to Access Books.Access Books supplies inner-city libraries with books; last year they received $30,480 from WHY to purchase books and furnishings to make a more pleasant environment for underserved kids to read in.
The Los Angeles Youth Network received nearly $30,000 to purchase a passenger van, among other things. The van will visit homeless, neglected and abused children aged 12-17. Part of the funds purchased a “senior package” for five kids, including class pictures and a class ring, prom tickets and clothes, celebrating the enormous accomplishment this truly is for these kids.
My Friend’s Place received over $5,000 to purchase a Mac Design Station for homeless kids interested in graphic production and design.
Richstone Family Transitional Living Center received a grant to create a computer lab for girls being liberated from foster care; Operation School Bell purchased a van to help supply school clothes for needy children; YWCA Santa Monica/Westside Housing and Education needed to purchase new computers and appliances for their residential facility for former foster girls who are liberated at age 18 with nowhere to go; Team Prime Time, a peer mentor after-school sports program for special needs kids, provided jerseys to help coaches and athletes easily identify each other.
WHY does not have fundraisers. Administrative costs are kept to four percent for their website, P.O. box and insurance. Communications are by e-mail, so they have no mailing fees. The organization has no employees. Nearly 100 percent of all money raised is donated directly to where it is most needed. The money stays in Los Angeles; it goes to purchase tangibles that can be monitored in the future.
In May, the organization held an awards luncheon to announce recipients of this year’s grants. Kay and Dave’s Restaurant donated the luncheon. Desserts were potluck. This year Farshid Fakim, owner of La Provence in Beverly Hills (opening in Brentwood soon) has generously offered to donate the luncheon.
For a hands-on experience, some members participate in workdays with the grants recipients. Others want to participate in administration activities. Some members are happy just to hand over a check. Everyone participates in deciding how the grants are distributed.
WHY has taken the concept of philanthropy to a new level of efficiency. With almost no overhead, nearly every penny goes to grants. Every member is invited to participate and everyone can share in the joy of giving. So WHY not?