The beauty of collective giving comes from the many voices in this global movement who show love of humanity in both big and small ways. We’re proud to showcase diverse perspectives and experiences of folks giving together on our blog. Check out the post below from Shannon Jeffries, co-creator of The Tanna Fund and a member of Next Gen Giving Circle. // Photo Credit: Ìpàdé
Standing at the front of a room filled with eager educators, my former principal inquired, “Does anyone have something to share for the good of the whole?” I had heard the phrase before, but I had not considered what it meant until then: What contribution could I make to benefit the collective?
I asked myself this question many times before joining the Next Gen Giving Circle (NGGC), a Washington, DC-based giving circle with a mission to cultivate the next generation of philanthropists. As a Black American woman, “philanthropy” is not a term I have identified with for most of my life. Frankly, many in my community conflate philanthropy with uneven and unearned power and a legacy of exploitation and disenfranchisement that underlines this country’s history. Despite this, giving is deeply cultural for Black Americans. We steward generosity, kindness, and service for the people we consider family, kin, and village.
Raised in a culture of giving and shepherded through a network of givers, my role models were educators, volunteers, and public servants. I am the product of nonprofit organizations, scholarship programs, and ecosystems where love, service, and relationship were currency and wealth. Growing up, I was a student of my mother’s philanthropy; I watched her steward her time, talents, and voice. Inspired by her commitment to the collective, I pursued careers in education and mental health to give back and build up those in my community. Carrying the sentiments of Marian Wright Edelman, “service is the rent we pay for living,” I felt called to make an impact.
Before joining NGGC, I was not familiar with giving circles. However, collective giving and action felt familiar. At church growing up, we passed the collection plate. In my community, we donated, fundraised, and served with our neighbors. Adages like “it takes a village” are more than a notion; we leveraged community power, passing dollars and prayers for the good of the whole.
As a member of NGGC, I was eager to make an impact beyond the dollar; I wanted to understand the grantmaking process, connect with nonprofit leaders, and develop relationships with my fellow giving circle members. I joined the grants committee, where I supported the development of the grant application, co-led an information session for potential grantee partners, and reviewed applications from nonprofits throughout the region. Through pooled funds, we could make sizeable gifts to four organizations committed to advancing the economic and financial security of BIPOC communities in the DC region.
Simply put, I was inspired. By partnering intentionally with people who shared my values and interests, I grew my impact and broadened my reach far beyond what I could do alone. When I consider how much we were able to give, a saying comes to mind, “If you want to go far, go together.”
My giving circle experience expanded and deepened my understanding of philanthropy, which once felt distant and inaccessible as a young Black professional. For many young donors of color like me, collective giving is an on-ramp, a catalyst for philanthropic giving. When I shared my experience with friends, an idea emerged: Maybe I could start a giving circle and invite Black millennials to join me.
Sowing & Growing with the Tanna Fund
I was intimidated by the idea. Me, a founder of a philanthropic network? I worried about recruitment and infrastructure. What would I name it? How would it all come together? A quick Google Search moved me from idea to implementation in a matter of months when I found Philanthropy Together and Launchpad for You. Suddenly, the circle felt possible.
Philanthropy Together’s resource library was chockfull of guides and exercises I could use, and the 90-minute Launchpad For You virtual training provided an accessible, community-centered introduction to leading and launching a giving circle. After the training, I felt empowered to begin, to try. Soon, I found a partner in Elizabeth Gay, the founder of Ìpàdé, a coworking and events space for Black women and gender-expansive people in Washington, DC. In Yoruba, Ìpàdé means “gather.” The alignment felt divine.
Elizabeth and I will lead Ìpàdé’s first giving circle, the Tanna Fund. Like Ìpàdé, “Tanna” is a word from the Yoruba language that means “blossom.” Our circle will sow into Black women-founded organizations and businesses, providing capital, resources, and community to support founders on their journey from idea to impact.
My philanthropy and service are active, dynamic practices that change with time. I am excited to grow my impact and cultivate community in this next season with the Tanna Fund. With collective action, we are better positioned to realize the full potential and possibility of a community.
I invite you to consider: What offering can you make for the good of the whole?
Shannon Jeffries is a community-focused and multi-passionate leader working at the intersection of philanthropy, service and storytelling. She serves regional and national organizations, managing programs, projects, and partnerships that address issues of equity and justice in the education and nonprofit sectors.