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Launchpad For You Fall 2020 // Philanthropeeps Cohort

We have made it through a tough year together.

As sobering as 2020 has been, ushering in a world pandemic, social isolation, staggering death rates, spotlighting racial killings and inequalities, and a polarizing political divide among our nation, the inspiring silver lining is that we did not bow out. We did not give up.

We got things done!

We rose up and called out for positive change. This year had its moments of tears, fear, devastation and silent struggle, but moreover, it has unveiled the power and creative resolution that resounds in our communities when we pull together our collective talents, resources and hope.

People are finding their voice in the power of empowering others in meaningful ways through the force and unity of giving circles. …

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Latino Community Foundation | Photo Credit: Bryan Patrick Photography (2018)

Each year as families prepare to celebrate the year-end holidays, organizations are getting ready for the busiest time of year for giving. I, for one, am excited to see a much-needed shift in giving trends this year.

Despite increases in overall giving levels, philanthropy has seen troubling giving trends in recent years.

While overall rates of philanthropic giving have increased, the percentage of Americans who make small and mid-sized donations (up to $999) has declined to its lowest levels in two decades, dropping 4% in 2018. While the growth in total giving is good news, this trend reveals an increasing reliance on “large” donors — wealthy and high-income individuals — perpetuating the harmful idea that only deep-pocketed donors can address society’s most pressing issues. Fewer low- and mid-sized donors make our philanthropic sector less vibrant and less reflective of our diverse communities.

At a time when it can seem as though our country is more divided than ever, it’s invigorating to connect with creative people working tirelessly to unify our communities rather than divide them. I was among hundreds of artists, changemakers and social justice leaders in the philanthropy and arts sectors, including activist and poet Hanna Drake, arts activist and writer Shanai Matteson, theater artist and playwright Marty Pottenger and many more of the art world’s movers and shakers at the 2020 ArtPlace Summit celebrating the arts and investing in them to make our communities better, fairer places to live.

Launched nearly a decade ago, ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a collaboration of artists, foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions working together to strengthen the field of creative placemaking — using the arts and culture to drive community change. The community has gathered annually since 2013 to connect and share ideas for leveraging the power of creativity to address racism, poverty, displacement, and so many other injustices our communities face. The arts have always had the ability to strongly influence community-led change, and ArtPlace has served as a foothold in the arts space to move this mission forward. This was my first time attending the summit, and I was incredibly impressed with the organization, engagement, caliber of sessions, ways to interact with each other and what an incredible safe space ArtPlace created for people to show up as their full selves. …

The Community Investment Network (CIN)’s annual conference truly was a Homecoming! It felt so good to virtually gather with hundreds of leaders in philanthropy including writer and philanthropist Melanie Brown, Rev. Eugene Cho of One Day’s Wages, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, and more of the world’s most influential social justice leaders to discuss philanthropy as a tool for community problem-solving.

Founded in 2003, CIN aims to inspire, connect, and strengthen African-Americans and communities of color to leverage their resources to create the change they wish to see. I’m always excited to see what CIN has planned each year for their conference.

In the middle of March, I got a call with an offer for my dream job: leading Philanthropy Together, a new national organization to grow and strengthen the giving circle movement. It felt like the perfect time for a new beginning, but just a few days after accepting it, I found myself sheltering in place from COVID-19 with my two teenagers and college son who had just flown in from New York City that morning. And it has been a whirlwind ever since.

For the first month on the job, while adjusting to a messy house and seemingly endless Zoom meetings, I felt inundated by news about inequality exposed by the virus, and the unlikely heroes stepping up to help neighbors and strangers alike. Then, as the protests in response to George Floyd’s murder and a national reckoning on racial justice began, more stories of deep inequity and powerful heroes flooded in. Now, as news around the 2020 Election continues to expose America’s most deeply-rooted divisions, communities are coming together to stand up for one another and defend democracy. …


Sara Lomelin

Executive Director at Philanthropy Together • Connecting people through the power of giving circles

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