When people come together for a common cause, big things can happen.
A community rallies around a family in crisis and provides food, shelter and clothing. After a disaster, people from all over a region donate supplies in aid of complete strangers.
So it’s no surprise that when a group of women – especially Lowcountry women – come together, they can accomplish whatever good they set their collective mind to doing.
Case in point is the membership of Women in Philanthropy (WIP), an organization created in 2003 under the auspices of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. Currently, nearly 100 women are active in the group.
Since its beginning, the membership has built an endowment of more than $1 million and given more than $600,000 in grants to local nonprofits.
If that comes as news to you, it could be because the group acts quietly for the most part. “Because we are a quiet group of women that care, we don’t get a lot of public acknowledgment, and that’s something we need in order to gain new members,” said Elizabeth Loda, chair of WIP.
Membership is open to all women in the Lowcountry. There is no requirement for attending lots of meetings or events, only to fulfill one’s contribution commitment for the year. Currently, there is a range of giving levels, from $300 per year upward.
Mary Stuart Alderman, a founding member and legacy member of WIP, said she was drawn to the organization because “the threshold of joining was less than the communities from which I came, in Winston-Salem and Charlotte, N.C.”
As a newer member, joining in 2007, Lesley Gilbert said the group had a “hometown feel – nothing like Washington, D.C.” where she previously lived.
WIP is different from other giving circles in that the organization has a structured way to decide where their collective funds go, and it is always focused on “moving the needle” on specific issues facing the community. “We are looking for new solutions that will solve old problems,” Loda said. “We’d rather not just spread our money around – we’d rather it go into specific projects.”
Each year, members vote on a theme of giving. For 2021, the theme is “Providing New Major Initiative to Assist in Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Nonprofits are vetted by the grants committee prior to being presented to the membership. “The nonprofits come with a project, and if they receive a grant, they must report on it the next year,” said Liz Clist, a founding member. “Members say they like this format because they know exactly where their funds go, and for what. And, they learn about the organizations as well.”
Loda said that normally, two luncheons are held each year, in the spring and the fall. Both have been canceled this year, but events chair Peaches Peterson is working on a virtual option for the date, Oct. 28, that the fall luncheon was scheduled.
In summarizing the benefits of belonging to the organization, both for the individual and her community, Kaye Black, a founding member and legacy member of WIP, said, “I’ve lived here 42 years and this community is really important to me. There is only so much I can do in the years while I’m around, so one of the things that attracted me to WIP is the endowment, knowing that what I invest now will keep on working for our community long after I’m gone. … It’s not just sifting money through our fingers like sand from the beach. It’s planting some of it so we can keep on doing good and leaving a lasting legacy and making the lives of people in the Lowcountry better for generations to come.”
For more information, email Loda at email@example.com.