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Women's Giving Circle

Collective Giving Maximizes Impact for Women and Children in Frederick County

Article by Kristen Wojdan

Photography by T. Kowalsky Photography

Originally published in Frederick Lifestyle

In 2002, Karlys Kline was faced with a severe health issue. She recalls,  “I was in the best possible situation a single female could be in. My house and car were paid for. I had a great job and insurance. I knew people would help take care of me.” Even with what seemed to be the perfect scenario to make it through this health hardship, she admits she was still scared and stressed. 

Once the issue was resolved, Karlys thought about other women experiencing similar circumstances. She asked, “What if I had not had health care or paid vacation or time off? And, how many women are in that position, where they really need to be elevated in their careers and nurtured and supported?” So, she wanted to figure out a way to help women in need. 

Her first thought was to open a fund at the Frederick Community Foundation and just write checks. But after a lot of research, she discovered the concept of Giving Circles. (A giving circle is a form of participatory philanthropy by a group of individuals who form a voluntary association to donate their money or time.) Karlys worked with Betsy Day and the Community Foundation to create by-laws and open a fund; and in 2006, the Women’s Giving Circle of Frederick (WGC) was founded.

Karlys had hoped that one day 50 women would participate by pulling their money together to give to different organizations that help women. What started with 10 women grew to 50 women within just 18 months. And, today the WGC has exceeded expectations with over 450 members! 

The leadership team is made up of ten women who volunteer to lead various committees that help to manage and grow the organization. Bonnie Swanson, the current Chair of the WGC, explains, “The money stays in Frederick…Frederick is a very giving, caring community. There are a lot of nonprofits and there are a lot of people who work towards funding them and volunteering!”

The WGC provides opportunities for donor members to promote and support programs that enable and empower women in challenging situations to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of those for whom they are responsible. Through an annual grant application and award cycle, funding is provided to local organizations in Frederick County. 

The 2022 grant awards totaled $260,000 and $2,404,607 has been awarded to 63 local nonprofit organizations since the founding of WGC. 

When asked about a specific story that had impacted her, Karlys shared, “There is an organization called Second Chances Garage. Founder Rick Trawick spoke and then invited a participant to speak…I’ll never forget the woman who talked about how she had to live and work near a bus stop. Her kids couldn’t do things after school because she couldn’t pick them up. If she had to go to the doctor she had to take a day off from work in order to travel there. And, when she received the car from Second Chances Garage, she got a better apartment, a better job, and her kids could do things after school. It totally changed her life and her kids’ lives. And, something as simple as a car.”

The 2023 grant recipients will be announced at the WGC Annual Grant Awards Program on June 14th. When selecting beneficiaries to receive grants, the WGC filters applications through their mission statement.

Angela Chase, Membership Chair, explains, “There are a lot of really fantastic nonprofits out there already doing the hard work. They know the community. They know how to properly give hands-on support to the people who need it. We just want to provide more tools to help them…We look for a program within an organization or an entire organization. It’s always program directed. We need to see the need and make sure it’s aligned with our mission.”

“It’s a simple concept," Karlys continues, "We review the organizations that are helping women and we give the money to the programs that seem to make the biggest impact. Together you make a bigger impact than with individual checks.”

Bonnie added, “If you are new to the Frederick community and want to get connected in a positive way and make a difference where you live, then the WGC is a great way to do this!”

And, everyone (men and women) is welcome to join! According to Karlys, “We always encourage and welcome new people. You don’t have to be proposed as a member. And, I think one of the best things about the WGC is the energy of the gatherings we have, where connections are made...that the ripple effect of people doing good connecting with other people doing good…You feel great about what you’re doing and hear about the wonderful impact. It’s a great feeling!”

“If you are new to the Frederick community and want to get connected in a positive way and make a difference where you live, then the WGC is a great way to do this!”

- Bonnie Swanson, Chair of WGC