For more than 200 local women, everything that goes around comes around through their giving circle — caring, community and philanthropy.
“Our giving circle does a lot more than just give money: It provides education and information to our membership about amazing charities and services available in our community that they might not know about,” said Desha Bymers-Davis, founder of 100+ Women Who Care Tucson.
Bymers-Davis, a sales manager for a Fortune 100 company, was inspired to start the organization in 2015 after her son graduated from college. She had been considering some type of volunteerism when a friend in Omaha, Nebraska, told her about a giving circle comprised of individuals who pooled a contribution of their own money every three months to make a sizable donation to a nonprofit organization.
“She said it was the best hour of her quarter because in one hour, 100 women came together and each gave $100 to make a $10,000 donation for a local charity. She was certain we had a giving circle in Tucson since they had one in Omaha,” said Bymers-Davis.
After some research, Bymers-Davis discovered several giving circles in Phoenix, but none in Southern Arizona. Shortly thereafter she started the local chapter of 100+ Women Who Care to raise $10,000 to buy 300 baby cribs for a charity.
Since then, care chapters have spread throughout North America; they are one of 525 network-affiliated giving circle chapters according to a 2016 study by the Collective Giving Research Group. The study also named 1,087 independently-run giving circles and their collective impact is significant.
A 2017 report from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis found that giving circles, which increased by three-fold between 2007 and 2017, donated at least $1.3 billion to charities during that decade.
“Giving circle are one of the fastest growing philanthropies in the United States. People feel like a $100 gift in combination with like-minded women can make a huge difference and they can also have a say and direct where their funds are going,” said Bymers-Davis.
She cited the example of the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, which was the recipient of the more than $21,000 from 100+ Women Who Care Tucson in the third quarter of 2018.
“The week prior to our Big Give, they were offered a huge additional shipment of diapers, but they needed to round up an additional $16,800. Donations of $100 from our members turned into $17,000, which turned into $1 million worth of diapers for Tucson. That is the power of a giving circle. These charities have an infrastructure and buying power that make donations of $100 work a lot harder when we combine them together to make a sizable contribution,” Bymers-Davis said.
The impact is more than monetary: Each quarterly, Big Give also provides an opportunity to educate the community about three local charities chosen randomly from more than 40 approved nonprofits that have been nominated and vetted by members of the circle. Members have the opportunity to ask in-depth questions about the three chosen nonprofits, after which the entire membership votes to choose a quarterly recipient of funds.
The approved organizations vary in size and address a diverse range of social issues and needs: Health care, homelessness, animals, addiction and recovery, the arts, education, sports and recreation, foster care and much more. Criteria also dictates the nonprofits must be in existence for at least two years, donated funds must remain in Southern Arizona and at least 70% of the organization’s revenues must be directed toward programming.
Recipients have included well-known nonprofits such as Casa de los Niños and the ALS Association Arizona Chapter, as well as smaller organizations such as Helping Hands for Single Moms, which assists low-income single mothers in obtaining a college education, and the Angel Heart Pajama Project, which has gifted 22,000 pairs of pajamas and books to children in crisis since 2013.
Both the $17,000 and the exposure that the Angel Heart Pajama Project received in October 2017 are invaluable, according to Patti Lopez, a member on the nonprofit’s board of directors.
“We love 100+ Women Who Care; they are awesome. It is a great way for women to come together and network, and in one evening they learn so much and ask questions about various nonprofits. Events like this really help us get the word out about what we do,” said Lopez.
She emphasized that outreach provides the opportunity to tell the story of co-founders Maria Cuesta Patterson and Marty Croissant, Cuban immigrants who escaped religious, political and economic distress in 1963 with their mother, Graciela Lopez. Graciela worked in a pajama factory to support her daughters, who went to college and built successful careers.
“She wanted to start a nonprofit. They asked her, ‘Why pajamas?’ and she said ‘That is how I supported you’ and when they said, ‘Why books?’ then she answered, ‘Freedom through education,’” said Patti.
The Angel Heart Pajama Project pays it forward by serving kids who are homeless, abused, neglected, ill, and low-income through 72 social service agencies predominantly in Tucson, Sierra Vista, Marana and along the I-19 corridor. It also serves children through shelters, food banks, the foster-care system and refugees.
Bymers-Davis said the unique nonprofit epitomizes the heart-felt, personal character that appeals to many members of 100+ Women Who Care Tucson.
Overall, she is thrilled with the success of the giving circle in Tucson, which has doubled its initial 100 members and funneled more than $280,000 into nonprofits in the community to date.
She encourages all women to come explore the 16th Big Give at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, 3800 E. Sunrise Drive.
“It is perfect for any woman of any age. When I first heard the concept, I thought, ‘I am so busy, this would fit perfectly into my life.’ For people who have kids, giving back often centers around them, but this can be a good way to meet other people who may be philanthropic with a minimal time commitment,” Bymers-Davis said.