Investing in Women and Girls Creates Long-Term Benefits

February 25, 2021
Give Circle

When it comes to support for organizations dedicated to women and girls, charitable giving lags far behind society’s growing awareness of gender disparities. Such are the findings of the recently released annual Women & Girls Index, conducted by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which found only 1.6% of overall financial donations goes to women’s and girls’ organizations.

That matters: Investing in women and girls creates long-term social and economic benefits across generations and throughout communities. Educational opportunities and support for women translates into better-paying jobs and more security for their families. Women, studies show, reinvest 90% of their incomes in their families and communities.

Fifteen years ago, the Community Foundation of North Central Florida’s Board of Directors recognized the connection between the well-being and success of women and that of their communities, and launched the first Women’s Giving Circle here.

Giving circles had been gaining popularity around the country with a simple, yet innovative, idea: to harness the collective giving of philanthropic women in support of programs by local nonprofits benefiting women and girls — with an emphasis on economic empowerment, job and life skills. Thanks to a rigorous grants process, the Giving Circle’s carefully focused funding has provided opportunities to thousands of local women and girls.

Like Jenny. In 2018, with her marriage ending, this 50-year-old mother of two needed to return to work. Jenny hoped to pick up her career as a registered nurse, but had been out of the health care field for 18 years.

Thanks to a grant from the Giving Circle to the Back to Work 50+ program at Santa Fe College, Jenny completed the CPR certification required for her RN renewal license and updated her computer-skills training. Within months, Jenny was hired as a nurse in a local pediatric practice. 

And Tammy. In 2012, this seventh grader was among 13 girls selected for Women’s Giving Circle scholarships through the Take Stock in Children program. This meant if Tammy maintained good grades through high school, she would be guaranteed a two-year Florida Prepaid College Scholarship.

She did: Six years later Tammy entered her senior year at Buchholz High School with a 3.3 unweighted GPA and 18 college credit hours from dual enrollment at Santa Fe College. Today, she is fulfilling her dream of studying at the University of Florida.

What started as an idea 15 years ago has attracted more than 200 local women and made possible more than $1 million in grants to 40 local nonprofits, ranging from the PACE Center for Girls, Peaceful Paths, Girl Scouts of Gateway Council, Displaced Homemakers and so many more.

“Part of the beauty of the Giving Circle is the privilege of seeing the impact of our collective giving almost immediately” says Jacki Levine, chair of the Circle. “Whether it’s helping fund a safe gathering place for girls or enabling a homeless mom to move into an apartment with her children, the Giving Circle’s grants go right to work.”

Our mission is simple: To build a lasting network of women philanthropists, and grant funds to support organizations, programs and initiatives that address the needs of women and girls in our community. And by doing so, help all families here.

The needs are great:

• One in four children in Alachua County lives in poverty.

• Alachua County has the second-highest rate of poverty in the state among families headed by women.

• 40% of single mothers with one or two children live in poverty in Alachua County.

And with COVID, the numbers are worsening. As we are all so aware, these statistics cannot begin to portray the challenges faced by so many. Job loss and reductions, remote-learning challenges, increased need for family caregivers, increase in reports of domestic violence, the list continues to grow. Now more than ever, we need to invest in our local women and girls.

Through the power of banding together in collective giving, the Women’s Giving Circle has helped make a real difference in the lives of the women and girls in our community. To learn more about the work of the Circle or how to get involved, visit

— Barzella Papa, CFRE, is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of North Central Florida.