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Giving Circles

Closing the Gap As Never Before

1. 100 Women Strong 

Karen Schaufeld started 100 Women Strong in 2008, at not coincidentally another tough time for the community. Since then, the group, which now includes men, has given more than $2 million to local charities. All of its members have prospered in their day jobs and want to find a way to give back. Members each contribute $10,000 a year which is pooled to help the non-profits they feel can assist Loudoun County in a strategic way.

By strategic, they mean not only that the group can make a bigger impact by making larger donations collectively, Karen explains; it’s more about using their giving to call attention to issues in the community that local authorities aren’t addressing in a manner that can help stir a longer-term response.

“We want to give the right amount to the right non-profit at the right time. It might be seed money to start a non-profit, or a larger amount of money for equipment or a staff member to do their mission,” Karen says. “When the non-profit can leverage what we give them to get money from other organizations, that’s the home run right there. That always makes us happy.”

Through the group’s grant process which typically culminates in donations in May, members educate themselves on the needs in the community and look for ways that they help organizations addressing shelter, health, hunger, education and long-term initiatives. The COVID-19 health crisis makes this year a bit different, and the group has already informed its grant applicants that its available funding, somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000, will more than likely be diverted to help first responders and others on the front lines of combatting the disease. Funds also may be needed to help families with emergency funding for child care, utility bills or staying in their homes.

Members are from “all ends of the political spectrum... the thing that binds us all together is that as long as we’re working together on a common mission, we’ll get stuff done,” Karen said. 

2. Loudoun Impact Fund

For those with more time than money to contribute, The Loudoun Impact Fund is a partnership of between a circle of around 50 local philanthropists, the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties and The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. To join, individual givers donate $1,000 and businesses give $5,000 which yearly fund a fall grant cycle.

Terry Allen, a realtor with Dulles North Ventures and Bob Fiolek, a semi-retired software consultant, often serve as impassioned recruiters. They list the “no brainer” benefits of a giving circle as: the leveraging of their funds, keeping their giving local, being better able to move the needle for one of the smaller non-profits to incubate a new program, and fostering philanthropy by “allowing newbies to work with long-timers.”

In November, the group marked six years of giving with more than $600,000 in cumulative impact. Said Bob at last year’s award ceremony, “It’s an eye-opening experience to digest these qualified and deserving and compassionate grant requests. You cannot walk away from this process without a better understanding of what it’s like out there (young or old or disabled) if you are faced with real hurdles, real needs in this ‘perfect’ community of ours.” Characteristically, both serve on the board of a non-profit – in their case, the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter.

They’ll hold a mixer to help prospective members get to know the group as soon as that’s feasible, but in the meantime, Bob’s word of encouragement is, “It’s worthwhile to invest your time in knowing where you can help.”

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