As one woman after another arrives to the planning meeting, a potluck spreads across a table. Deviled eggs. Smoked trout. A vegetarian chili recipe with a new twist. The room is set for 10 but as it ﬁlls, tables are rearranged and more chairs are pulled together.
“I printed 12 copies; they may not be enough.”
“Did you read this article on voter turnout?”
“This is exactly what we were talking about last month.”
By just after 6:30 pm, 15 members of the giving circle March On! have gathered around the table to discuss their philanthropic strategy and goals.
March On! founder Roz Barhaugh (pictured below) and her husband, Brian, were out of the country for the 2016 presidential election. When they heard the result, they feared that many issues they have long cared about as a couple were vulnerable to reductions in federal funding.
“We’ve got to do something,” they agreed.
They returned to the United States and hosted a sign-making party for the 2017 Women’s March in Denver. Roz still wanted to do more.
Roz and Brian, who have a donor-advised fund at The Denver Foundation, had attended an event featuring LatinasGive!, a giving circle of Latina women. Roz thought the model would work well for women inspired by the Women’s March.
Roz’s original goal was to identify friends who would each donate $1,000 to open a donor-advised fund at The Denver Foundation. The question was simple: “Are you in?” By the end of the year, 27 women had joined the circle.
According to Roz, it was an easy sell.
“It was all word of mouth. If it is a good idea, people want to be a part of it. With this group, we know we are not alone. We are making new friends. And we are making a bigger impact together than we could on our own.”
“How easy is the pitch? Women getting together to exert power,” says March On member Sue Reilly with bemusement. “When I pitched to Marcia [Hocevar] I asked, ‘Do you want to learn more?’”
“I said, ‘I don’t need to,’” says Marcia, excitedly.
“It speaks for itself,” adds Sue.
The women gather monthly as part of a thorough process to select the recipients of grants from the giving circle. Each year the group narrows to two to three issue areas of focus.
They request that The Denver Foundation research and recommend potential nonproﬁt organizations. The women complete individual research on their own, as well.
“When everybody brings their brains together, it widens our collective knowledge base,” says Roz.
As a new giving circle, March On! continues to reﬁne its grantmaking algorithm. It started with women’s issues and further guidelines have developed by consensus. The focus is local, not national. In 2017, it was women and homelessness, and women and immigration. This year, it’s women and health care; the overlap between women and homelessness, and mental health, and women and voter turnout. Each question they ask and answer together hones their strategy, as it does tonight in the rapid ﬁ re discussion between the members:
“Are we focused on service or advocacy?”
“Will their federal funding be cut?”
“What is their budget?”
“Will we make a difference?”
“Can we overlap the grants?”
“Can we offer a matching grant?”
As the meeting continues, ideas continue to popcorn back and forth across the table. Relationships deepen. Enthusiasm grows.
“NAMI Colorado has a walk coming up. We should do their walk.”
“Maybe a calendar of walks to do together?”
“Yes, March On!”