Giving circles are primed to radically shift the paradigm when it comes to how we collectively share our resources for the common good. This Black Philanthropy Month, join us in lifting up and celebrating Black-led giving circles that are redefining what philanthropy looks like in 2021.
Hosted at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Sisterhood of Philanthropists Impacting Needs (SPIN) is committed to improving outcomes and opportunities for young girls and women facing oppression and marginalization. Together, this dynamic group of Black women leverages their intimate giving circle to make big impacts in Denver and its surrounding communities.
What started off as a $365-per-year commitment has grown over time to more than $500 per year and much more with members going beyond the grant dollar and ensuring they build relationships with their grantee partners. As part of the Community Investment Network, SPIN is dedicated to directing resources to projects that support the health of Black communities. In the past year, SPIN has donated approximately $19,000 to support several Black-led Denver-area ventures, including:
- Sistahbiz Global Network, a hub for Black female business owners interested in expanding their networks;
- Star Girlz Empowerment, Inc., a mentorship and support program for young Black females between the ages of 10 and 25;
- Project Voyce, a youth empowerment organization that encourages young people to be civically engaged and a force for good in their communities; and
- Curls on the Block, a development program for young girls that focuses on nurturing their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM).
Though the 19 members of SPIN have an ambitious mission, the circle’s beginnings are humble and seeded in a collective desire to support the Black community.
A Vision for Black Women
Co-founded by Tanaka Shipp and Nneka McPhee in 2014, SPIN started off as a small circle of 14 Black women looking to make an impact in the Denver area. In its first year, SPIN raised $10,000 for local nonprofits.
“Tanaka and Nneka had a vision and saw a need in our community, not only in the community we focus on, but also in the professional realm of Black women,” said Amber Mitchell, a founding member of SPIN.
When the group first formed, each member committed to giving one dollar a day to a donor-advised fund. Meetings are held quarterly and, while informal, provide a space for the women to discuss important issues and strategize on how to make the most of their pooled funds.
“We make sure we have a grand time,” Mitchell said. “We are a group of women in a giving circle where we love spending time with each other. That has been the greatest experience of being a member and being a part of SPIN.”
“Together, SPIN is a group of women [who] come from different backgrounds, different skill sets, and we are passionate about contributions that we make into our community service projects,” said Micheline Merriwether, a member of SPIN and the group’s secretary. “It’s really a sisterhood.”
While lifting up young girls and women in the Denver area is paramount to its mission, SPIN is also nimble enough to be responsive to the times.
Partnering During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone across the world. In response to the hardship and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, the women of SPIN partnered with a Denver-based nonprofit, Collaborative Healing Initiative Within Communities (CHIC), to establish a COVID relief fund to help people suffering the economic and social impacts of the pandemic. In its first 24 hours, the fund was able to raise $10,000 and went on to raise more than $70,000 for families in need. Additional partners joined this initiative including Denver African-American Philanthropists. The collaboration allowed the groups to help Denver residents schedule vaccine appointments, access face masks, receive food, and provide gift cards directly to families in need.
SPIN and CHIC later deepened their partnership, co-creating Educational Justice for Black Coloradans (EBJC), an initiative to address the economic and educational gap between Black and white students in Colorado. SPIN currently has a $60,000 fundraising goal for a six-month feasibility study to assess the number of students that can be supported, costs associated with covering academic fees, and potential ways to finance the effort.
Knowing that Denver lacks spaces where Black women can congregate, network, and build relationships, Merriwether said that SPIN is a great opportunity to build community. Whether it’s funding an initiative to improve educational outcomes for Black youth or ensuring that low-income families have access to COVID vaccinations, SPIN is committed to driving change from the ground up.
Philanthropy Together aims to strengthen and scale the giving circle movement by working with giving circles like SPIN. Learn more at www.philanthropytogether.org.
Ilyasah N Shabazz
For more than a decade, Ilyasah has worked with nonprofits to help them grow their audience by telling impactful stories, implementing strategic plans, and streamlining digital communications. A proud New Yorker, Ilyasah now lives in Greensboro, NC.