OTTAWA COUNTY — A group of women of color is working to change the landscape of giving along the lakeshore.
They wanted to make an impact, both through their dollars and their presence as women of color in the traditional philanthropic world. So they launched Women of Color GIVE, a philanthropy collective.
“Traditionally, in philanthropic spaces, there has been a certain representation,” said Robyn Afrik, one of the founders. “It’s not that we’re saying that it’s bad. We’re saying, ‘What would the landscape look like if it was not that?’ We’re kind of going down that path. Women or girls of color that are not being brought to those tables, what does it look like to empower them through traditional philanthropic circles?”
Women of Color GIVE is modeled after the giving circle, a kind of charitable giving that has traditionally been organized by women. In a giving circle, people with common interests get together to pool money to give to one organization, typically chosen by a vote of the members.
One person with, say, just $100 to donate can amplify the power of their donation by combining it with 20 other people who also have $100. Resources are combined for greater impact, and the meetings also double as social events to build community within the circle.
Co-founders Afrik, Yah-Hanna Jenkins Leys and Lucia Rios wanted to harness that kind of collective power for women of color in the lakeshore area.
“We needed something for women of color,” said Jenkins Leys. “Something that highlights the fact that we’re all here as a group and we can have a say, we can influence change together.”
Afrik is the director of diversity, equity and inclusion for Ottawa County, Jenkins Leys is the interim executive director of Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates and Rios is an ability advocate and navigator for the non-profit The Source.
Afrik described Women of Color GIVE as a “hybrid” between a giving circle and a more traditional philanthropic fund.
Members are expected to give a set amount of money at each quarterly meeting of the group, like in a giving circle. But the money raised will be kept in a fund at the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area — this way, the fund can grow over the long term and become sustainable. People who aren’t members can also contribute to the fund.
Once a year, the group will pick an organization in the lakeshore area to give to. Although the process hasn’t been finalized, Jenkins Leys said they plan to solicit nominations from members, request applications from the organizations and host a pitch night as part of the selection process.
The goal is to invest in projects by and for women and girls of color and support organizations that empower women of color.
But it’s not just about where the dollars are going. The women behind Women of Color GIVE also want to flip the traditional philanthropy narrative on its head.
“Within the philanthropy space, women of color are viewed as the recipients of good instead of the doers of good,” Jenkins Leys said. “Women of color are viewed as powerless. … And the things that really matter to us, or the things that would really make a difference to us, are often underfunded. When there’s representation at the table, there’s a shift in the power dynamic. There’s a shift in the causes that are supported and the people that are celebrated.”
Jenkins Leys says she wants to change the perception of who the “givers” in the community are. We may think of a philanthropist as someone who donates enough to get his name on a building. But there are people of all races, genders and incomes giving, just in different ways and different amounts. Some people give up their time; some people tithe, she noted.
“I want to change the narrative, reframe what is philanthropy,” Jenkins Leys said. ”… I want, when people think of philanthropists, or people who give, or change, or influence change, that the image that comes to mind has shifted.”
Just by forming this group, they’re already starting to make that shift.
“We’re challenging systems just because of who we are and what we’re doing,” Afrik said. “We’re choosing to be the difference.”
For information about how to get involved, become a member or give, visit their website at wocgive.org.
Full story at: Holland Sentinel