Collaborating Locally for Greater Impact

By Cindy Rubin

An article in the January issue of Inside Philanthropy noted the growing phenomenon of women’s giving circles around the country.  Giving circles are engaging more and more women in the world of philanthropy “to make powerful changes in their own communities and across the globe.”  The Miriam Fund’s founders (nee BJCWF) were way ahead of the curve because for the past 16 years we have allocated more than $3.5 million to specific programs that inspire and strengthen women and girls throughout metro Boston and in Israel.  
Consider the powerful changes we can make when we collaborate with other giving circles!  Collaborating locally and nationally to leverage our impact is one of our key strategic priorities. Last summer and throughout the fall, we took a first step in this direction on the local level.  Barbara Newman, Andrea Waldstein and I joined women from 4 other foundations to form the Women and Girls Funding Collaborative through The Social Innovation Forum (SIF).  The four other foundations were the Anna B. Stearns Foundation, The Story Exchange, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and Womenade Boston. We raised $80,000 (The Miriam Fund contributed $10,000) for capacity building and general operating support for one organization that was ready to scale up its program to help women and/or girls overcome barriers to education, employment or economic self-sufficiency. 
After reviewing 20 applications, we narrowed the selection down to 4 and ultimately awarded our grant to Budget Buddies (which is also being considered for a grant from our secular subcommittee this year).  Budget Buddies, founded in 2010, helps low income women become more economically self-sufficient by teaching them core money management skills. 
Partnering with local social service agencies, over the past five years, Budget Buddies has trained over 200 coaches and mentored more than 330 low income women.  SIF’s Women and Girls Funding Collaborative award is a $10,000  grant for general operations, plus 2 years of capacity building resources from SIF which includes executive and presentation coaching, strategic planning, evaluation, marketing and fundraising support. 
We (The Miriam Fund) not only learned about Budget Buddies but gained insight into identifying when an organization is at an inflection point for capacity building as well as other operational resources that will help them grow and be successful.  In addition, this year, we incorporated some of the SIF application questions into our own grant process. Equally important, SIF’s Social Issues Speaker Series and Annual and Winter Showcases will feature Budget Buddies and will help raise the visibility of gender philanthropy and the importance of investing in women and girls. 
Alone, The Miriam Fund could not have given Budget Buddies or any organization this level of support without the help of other funders and SIF’s professional resources. We will continue to monitor Budget Buddies’ progress to evaluate the impact of this collaborative effort.
Next month, I will report on The Miriam Fund’s involvement in national collaborations.




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