Collective giving not a new concept, but brilliant one

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Lynne Cope Hummell

When I was a teenager (meaning when I started working at age 14, for $1.60 an hour), I thought I could get rich if I could simply convince everyone I knew to just give me $1.

When I realized I had only a couple hundred friends, relatives and acquaintances, I considered expanding my field to "everyone in the state."

Alas, contacting all those folks, especially pre-internet, was impossible, so I eventually let go of that dream.

But the concept remained with me. How cool - and how simple - that lots of people could give just a little and the group could raise a lot. And if not for me, then for someone who needed help.

Somewhere along the line, someone else refined this same idea, formed groups, and started calling it "collective giving." It is also called "giving circles," "collective grant making" and "community-led shared gifting."

I'm aware of several local organized groups based on this simple concept of group giving, some more structured than others, but sharing the basic premise that a few can give a little that will add up to a lot.

The first group I knew of is Women in Philanthropy, founded in 2003 on Hilton Head Island. Membership is offered in varied levels, starting at $300 per year.

By pooling their resources, the women in the organization built an endowment of more than $1 million, and since 2006 they have awarded more than $500,000 in grants to local nonprofits.

Another local group started as 100 Women Who Care. Apparently, there was great interest, and the organization soon changed its name to 100-Plus Women Who Care.

Again, the structure is simple: 100 women gather quarterly for an hour, prepared to write a check for $100 to a local nonprofit. Organizations are nominated by members, and the recipient is voted on by the members. That's a quick $10,000 for the recipient!

There are now at least three groups in the area - on Hilton Head, in Bluffton and in Sun City.

In fact, there are hundreds of "100" groups across the country, with similar names and guidelines, some that allow men, some for kids, some for businesses.

But collective giving doesn't have to be so well organized.

A couple of years ago, I heard about a group of 12 friends in Bluffton who would get together monthly, pitch in $20 each, and a different person each month would take the $240 and do something good for other people.

The money wasn't meant to be donated to an organization, but rather to help out fellow humans of the giver's choice.

One member bought lunches for random folks at a sandwich shop, another bought groceries for a family tending to a dying mother. The ideas were based on performing random acts of kindness with the collected funds.

The concept of collective giving is brilliant on so many levels.

First, it's easy and fast for the donors and for the recipients. It doesn't have to be through an organized group. One could simply drop a few dollars in a collection jug for an ailing neighbor, or give to a GoFundMe campaign that touches you.

There is also a ripple effect when one gives or receives. A recent recipient at the Hilton Head 100-plus group said she was so impressed by the "wonderful and gracious women" she met, that she was going to join the group and get in on the giving.

Finally, it just feels good to give. Even if you never get a thank you, you reap the rewards of having done something positive.

You might not be changing the world, but you might just help change somebody's world.

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