Small But Mighty: A Women’s Giving Circle Makes its Mark in San Diego

Preventing homelessness is cause supported by Hand to Hand. photo: fitzcrittle/shutterstock

Preventing homelessness is cause supported by Hand to Hand. photo: fitzcrittle/shutterstock

Without support from community foundations, many of the nation’s most active women’s giving circles would never have gotten off the ground. Lots of women’s giving circles are barely a decade old and draw in individual donors who have a vision of generosity, but need help turning that into impact on a local giving scene.

One women's giving circle worth knowing about in the San Diego area is called Hand to Hand, and it's an extension of the Encinitas-based Coastal Community Foundation. This is a giving circle that’s been around since 2008 and gives to causes that positively affect the lives of women and girls in San Diego County. As with a majority of women’s giving circles around the country, self-sufficiency and empowerment are overarching themes of Hand to Hand.

Even when dollar amounts of women’s giving circle grants are small, these are still great funders to get to know because of their hyper-local focus and passions for volunteerism and long-term grantor/grantee relationships.

Hand to Hand awarded $39,500 to five local nonprofits in San Diego County for its most recent annual grantmaking cycle. Specifically, it awarded a $6,500 grant to Dreams for Change, a $10,000 grant to Generate Hope, and additional grants to New Entra Casa, Reading Legacies, and TLC Assistance Dogs. Topics of interest this grantmaking round were homelessness prevention and assistance, sex trafficking victims, and women and girls in the criminal justice system.

A group of 19 women formed Hand in Hand 10 years ago, and the group has grown to about 60 women participants today. Women’s giving circles, like this one, offer local nonprofits some unique opportunities that larger and more traditional funders simply don’t. For example, Hand in Hand offers micro-loan programs through nonprofits in addition to its grants for job training, mentoring, and other related issues. Hand in Hand has distributed over $272,000 in grants over the past eight years to directly serve women and girls in the region. These grants typically range from $3,000 to $10,000 and go to groups that have been in existence for at least two years and that have budgets under $3 million. A list of past grants between 2009 and 2015 can be viewed here.

The women who participate in Hand in Hand must donate at least $500 to become a voting member and help select grant recipients. Certainly not all women’s giving circle members are especially wealthy. Rather, the secret sauce of these outfits are members who are strong invested on a personal level in the limited number of grantees chosen each year. From mandatory site visits to reporting requirements that include stories for giving circle publications, these are places to turn for long-term partners rather than just a passing check.

Aside from Hand in Hand, the Coastal Community Foundation largely focuses its giving on nonprofits in select communities of San Diego County in the areas of public education and mental health for one-year periods. Although you can’t apply for donor-advised grants through the community foundation, you can learn about the big donors in play on the foundation’s Donor Advised Fund Spotlights page. Also, check out IP’s full profile of the Coastal Community Foundation to learn about grant opportunities in Carmel Valley, Cardiff, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside.