Philanthropy Together Welcomes Its Inaugural Launchpad For Hosts Cohort

Sara Lomelin
5 min readMar 12, 2021


Jeffrey Lambert of the Venture County Community Foundation received 10,000 new donors from their work doing emergency response due to local fires in Ventura and COVID relief efforts over the past three years and wanted a way to engage those donors more deeply.

Ari Rosen, from the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, wanted to engage more young adult donors and donors who care about racial justice.

Sara Leuben joined the Minneapolis Foundation as the new Director of Collective Giving and was charged with launching programs that reflect the racial and economic diversity of the Twin Cities.

In Germany, Michael Alberg-Seberich from Wider Sense and Felix Dresewski from Kurt und Maria Dohle Siftung have been working to ignite community philanthropy across the country.

Giving circles are what unite these stories and these are just a few of the 30 host institutions that went through Philanthropy Together’s inaugural Launchpad For Hosts program. We just wrapped up a 6-week learning sprint, the beginning to a 6-month journey. Every host is now moving into their development and launch of their hosted giving circles. Round of applause for this group!

“This has been a mind blowing experience. I’ve learned a great deal and feel confident to move to the next level in this work.” — Launchpad For Hosts Spring 2021 participant

How we developed Launchpad For Hosts
Research shows that over 40 percent of giving circles are hosted by philanthropic intermediaries like Community Foundations given the strong benefit of providing infrastructure support to giving circles. There is massive potential to grow to hundreds and hundreds more, but we’ve heard anecdotally that giving circles are hard to run or unsustainable.

I firmly believe that locally rooted community organizations like Community Foundations and Jewish Federations are an excellent home for giving circles. I know because for eight years, I served as the Vice President of Philanthropy at the Latino Community Foundation where I helped start and lead the Latino Giving Circle Network, the largest network of Latino philanthropists in the country. Over those eight years LCF went from 1 to a handful to now more than 20 giving circles all around California engaging 500 Latino donors — the largest network of its kind.

We learned so many lessons at LCF — both amazing successes and real challenges — and my team at Philanthropy Together wanted a way for any host institution to have all the tools and know how to launch their own giving circles in a sustainable and successful way. Why reinvent the wheel when there are dozens of hosts already leading successful giving circles, and lessons to be learned from many more?

So we built Launchpad For Hosts as an answer.

We took the best of Launchpad For You (our giving circle incubator for individuals that has trained over 120 people around the world) — a cohort model, highly interactive virtual learning sessions, a peer community, and an incredible toolkit — and translated it for host institutions. The curriculum was informed by a decade’s worth of field research done by the Collective Giving Research Group, as well as insights from 10 new interviews with community foundation professionals across the country who have been leading up their institution’s giving circle efforts for the past several decades.

“We are now discussing giving circles in a deeper way than we have before.” — Launchpad For Hosts Spring 2021 participant

Launchpad For Hosts, the only program of its kind, is now a six-month virtual incubator that Philanthropy Together will run twice per year to train host institutions around the world on how to launch or strengthen their own hosted giving circles, with a focus on equity and sustainability.

With the support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, we were able to provide scholarships for many participants. We were also advised by Hali Lee and Letarik Amare of Radiant Strategies on the development of the program’s curriculum. Additionally, we worked closely with our partners at Amplifier@JFNA on a Jewish community professionals cohort within Launchpad For Hosts. Participants received subsidized payment fees, access to additional Jewish-specific content, additional training session, and ongoing coaching from Amplifier@JFNA. Working side-by-side with partners like Radiant Strategies and Amplifier@JFNA on our shared mission of expanding the collective giving movement is such a joy. Thank you.

“I feel empowered with the expertise needed to start and run GC’s from A to Z!” — Launchpad For Hosts Spring 2021 participant

Join the Next Launchpad For Hosts
The program is held over six months and starts with a 6-week learning sprint that includes 10 hours of live trainings with guest speakers, and then monthly personal coaching sessions, both group and one-on-one training, access to a network of philanthropic host institutions as well as a peer-learning community to ask questions, network or relate to one another during this intense yet rewarding process.

The Learning Sprint focuses on:

  • Week 1: Host Vision — Define mission alignment, outcomes and goals, and how to gather stakeholder buy-in.
  • Week 2: Circle Design — Determine your ideal model and type of hosted giving circle, with considerations around size, membership, contribution structure, and issue focus.
  • Week 3: Host/Circle Relationship — Solidify how your hosted giving circles will fit into your existing business model, staffing structure, and operations.
  • Week 4: Circle Leadership — Uncover who will lead and champion your hosted circles and learn how to train and support these leaders to enable long-term sustainability.
  • Week 5: Hosting Infrastructure — Dive into all the small details of technology tools, data tracking, and internal/external communications.
  • Week 6: Long-Term Impact — Envision long-term donor engagement tactics, how to measure impact, how to deepen donor education over time, and considerations around circle life cycles.

“Philanthropy Together gave me tools to make me look awesome for my leaders who are hesitant on this work.” — Launchpad For Hosts Spring 2021 participant

Are you a program officer or donor engagement director? Launchpad For Hosts is perfect for leaders within philanthropic institutions like you who are passionate about democratizing philanthropy.

Philanthropy Together will begin accepting applications for the second Launchpad For Hosts cohort in the fall of 2021. If you’re ready to step into a leadership role that creates positive change, complete an interest form and we’ll be in touch.



Sara Lomelin

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