She Gives through the Giving Common | City of Ideas

Posted 02/06/2017 by James Burnett, Director, Public Relations, with Amanda Noelle Holm, Manager, Nonprofit Effectiveness

AH: Can you tell us about SheGives? How did you get started?

KB: I launched SheGives with a few friends because we wanted to make sure that our giving was effective. Not originally from Boston, I had moved here to marry my late husband who was a Boston native. He passed away when we were only in our 40’s and I loved Boston and wanted to stay here, and deepen my commitment and connections to Boston. Many of my friends in the STEM, venture capital and biotech sectors had also moved to the area during/after college and had the same feelings about deepening their connections to Boston while giving with the highest impact. We wanted to do research to learn what the real needs of Boston were, and what organizations were addressing those needs. We to do the due diligence together and form a portfolio of nonprofits we believed in to support them as a group. Having been an angel investor in the past, the idea of doing the work together for nonprofits resonated with me (we make individual giving decisions but pledge to collectively support the SheGives portfolio to have a greater impact). When you consider investments in other areas, you give deep analysis and consideration first. By researching and giving together, we can apply a rigorous diligence process appropriate to nonprofits, learn more and do more good. The world's problems are great and hard, yet our resources to bring to bear on them are finite - so we wanted to make sure our social "investments" have impact. How do you do that unless you perform diligence? We are in our fourth year now and SheGives has given about $750,000 to nonprofits on our slate.

AH: How has this work impacted you personally?

KB: I have learned so much about Boston and the Boston community that I would not have learned otherwise just playing around with my friends. I didn’t know there was sex trafficking locally for example. We brought My Life My Choice on to the SheGives slate and they did an amazing job. Another example is Lovin’ Spoonfuls, I had never equated food waste as raising both environmental and economic issues. I learned so much about the food community, about the homeless shelters where they donate the food, and learned why food waste is an issue. With each and every nonprofit, my eyes are opened as to what the issues are, which communities are affected and how.

We’ve given about $750,000 in the first three years. While I am so proud of that for a group that started with a few of us just a few years ago, what is even more humbling is to realize that the impact on the nonprofits is so much greater than what the dollars represent. Our members validate and support the work of the nonprofits in the SheGives portfolio in multiple ways – we have done volunteer work, have talked to friends who have gotten involved, have done advisory work. They’ve brought other friends and family into the nonprofit. For example, for Christmas, a member’s whole family gives to one nonprofit, using the SheGives slate as a base. SheGives members both contribute to InnerCity Weightlifting financially, but also work out there. There’s an impact that we’re not able to track that our members facilitate.



AH: What does due diligence for grantmaking mean to you?

KB: SheGives performs diligence in a way that is meaningfully similar to what other major foundations do, including impact assessments, on-site visits, multi-year financial statement review, Executive Director and Board interviews, reference checks, etc.  It’s a rigorous process.

AH: Why do you use the Giving Common?

KB: We rely heavily on the Giving Common in our diligence process, particularly at the initial stages.  We are very respectful of the time and resources of the nonprofits we consider, and the Giving Common provides a number of initial screens through which we can consider whether a nonprofit is a good fit for SheGives, as well as a snapshot of the nonprofit's overall operations, finances and team.  It's the first place we look and use it as an initial filter. So that is good from the nonprofit's perspective, because their resources to respond to inquiries are respected.  

But also, from a donor's perspective a complete and thoughtful nonprofit profile on the Giving Common demonstrates that a nonprofit is committed to communication and full transparency.  It also shows that they are resourceful, and use the smart avenues available to them to attract notice and support.

AH: How do nonprofits get involved with SheGives?

KB: There is no RFP process. We use the Giving Common for initial research, call other foundations and smart donors around town to see if there are some great organizations and partners we should be looking at, and ask our members.

AH: What is ShePartakes and Its Relationship with SheGives?

KB: ShePartakes is a partnership we have made with a number of the generous and talented women in the restaurant, wine and hospitality industry in Boston. They lavishly host/contribute to a series of intimate food+wine events to raise money for our work and the nonprofits in SheGives portfolio.  We celebrate these great women and their work, while they give to worthy, highly vetted nonprofits. Ana Sortun (Oleana, Sofra Bakery), Joanne Chang, Karen Acunowicz & Sarah Wallace (Myers+Chang, FLOUR Bakery), Tiffani Faison (Sweet Cheeks & Tiger Mama), Nancy Cushman (O Ya, Hojoko), BRIX Wine Shop and others have all gotten into it. We encourage everyone to come to one of these; they are loads of fun.  For more information, please visit www.shepartakes.org.

AH: Are there any anecdotes of SheGives members or grantees you'd like to share?

KB: In addition to using the Giving Common as a critical screen in our diligence phase, we have been thrilled to work closely with The Boston Foundation's Equality Fund.  We partnered with them two years ago to select a high impact nonprofit serving Boston's LGBTQ community for the SheGives portfolio.  As a result of that, we were thrilled to add GLAD Legal Advocates & Defenders to our slate.

AH: How can we learn more about your work?

Our website is: www.shegivesboston.org

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