Collective philanthropy with Giving Common | City of Ideas

Posted 03/15/2017 by Amanda Holm

Amanda: Tell us about your journey to philanthropy. What sparked your interest in giving back?

Brett: Being a Professional Advisor, philanthropy was always something I was interested in. I’m originally from Philadelphia, and now an estate planning attorney here in Boston. My position affords me the opportunity to engage in philanthropic planning, and I was approached at the beginning of last year to get involved in our NE500 group’s inaugural giving circle grant-making round. Always looking for ways to get involved in the community, and having not grown up in Greater Boston, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to get involved and take a deeper dive into the nonprofit sector (beyond just reading organization’s mission statements). Through the giving circle, I get a broader view of how organizations are making an impact on their communities.

Jeff: I’m from Philly as well. Brett and I met on the NE500 committee last year, and decided that two guys from Philly should work together to help make a difference in Boston. My role is in the private sector, working in mergers and acquisitions. I got involved in the giving circle because it gave me an opportunity to give back and learn more about the Not-for-Profit sector. I’ve done some work on the local level, engaging with youth and education organizations in my backyard, but I was looking for a broader role that would have more impact. When the Giving Common tool was first introduced at a committee meeting, I was impressed and wished there were something similar to easily compare opportunities between the closely held businesses I deal with every day. I used it the other day for some analysis for this year’s grants, and have recommended to nonprofits that they obtain a Giving Common profile. is great resource for our group and the nonprofit community in general. We can both cross reference data when we are looking for specific organizations, and can also conduct immediate analysis on those organizations.

Brett: It makes it incredibly clear when you visit the Giving Common that you don’t know what you don’t know. On the Giving Common, you get more robust information that goes beyond the initial emotional pull of a nonprofit’s mission. It also shares the analytical side of organizations that gives people even more of a reason to invest.

Amanda: What are things that you have learned this year, as you go into round two of NE500/501Circle grant making?

Jeff: While I knew that there were numerous organizations, I guess I didn’t realize the size disparity and mission disparity that exists in the sector. The organizations that we’re looking at this year versus last year are very different. It was such a difficult process to get down to five organizations that we will grant to, as they were all so compelling.

Brett: It was interesting to see the professionals from the private organizations we work with through USA 500 adding a collaborative charitable component. With the roadmap we use in our giving circle, there were a lot of people moving from checkbook philanthropy to what we think of as more leveraged philanthropy. It’s applicable in both our professional and personal lives.

Amanda: Can you tell us a little bit more about your giving circle? For example, how did NE500/501Circle get its name?

Brett: NE500/501Circle is affiliated with the national USA 500 Club. NE refers to the New England sub-region of the national USA 500 Club.  501Circle refers both to the 501(c)3 organizations that we support and our theory that any one person can make a difference.

Leigh: Are there any other USA 500 Clubs that have a charitable component?

Jeff: We are the first, but there is a regional group in New York that will hopefully undertake the process. They are a few years behind us.

Brett: Each USA 500 Club chapter or group picks centers of influence for their group (large organizations, universities, executive directors of nonprofits). Each group brings a different perspective to build relationships with people in their community.  So, while not ‘charitable,’ we are always striving for diverse perspectives.

Amanda: Is there anything else you would like to share about the impact of NE500/501Circle’s work?

Jeff: One thing I would add is that there is a component of our inaugural year’s work that we will be doing again in May 2017 at our annual meeting. We invited our community organizations to that meeting and the members of the club and the nonprofit leaders were able to interact. People walked away from that event truly feeling the impact of their giving, through the personal touches of the night.

Thank you so much to Jeff and Brett for this interview! The Giving Common looks forward to continued partnership with the NE500/501Circle.   

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