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Sara Lomelin’s Passion for the Philanthropy of Everyday People


Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Sara Lomelin, executive director of Philanthropy Together.

Sara Lomelin, courtesy of Sara Lomelin

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

When I switched careers 12 years ago, I didn’t understand the power dynamics and barriers that exist for grassroots nonprofits. I wish I knew the intricacies of philanthropy and why such large gaps exist between those who need funding and those who receive. I now see that collectively, we are moving the needle to shift philanthropy, but it’s happening very slowly.

While I wish I’d entered on this path sooner, I am proud to now devote my career to giving circles because I believe this model is the most dynamic way to liberate capital to nonprofit leaders who know what solutions are best for their communities. Giving circles are filled with everyday givers coming together to diversify and democratize philanthropy. These are the voices that have historically been excluded by mainstream philanthropy and the voices that will break down these existing power dynamics and eliminate barriers to much-needed funding for grassroots leaders.

2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?

Giving circles are people-powered philanthropy. Currently, working in a virtual setting has been a challenge. I would love to sit around a table with my team hosting brainstorms, or meet for coffee with giving circle leaders in their communities. I would love to meet the organizations they are funding, listen to stories and share a meal with them. Our work thrives on these personal connections, and I’m certainly missing the in-person interactions. I am thankful I had the opportunity to travel to Charlotte, NC, recently and meet in-person with local giving circle leaders to pilot our new CircleUp program. These in-person gatherings are designed to bring back the magic and intimacy of sharing space with one another.

3. What inspires you most about your work?

Empowering and inspiring others to be part of charitable giving keeps me going in this work. I truly believe that giving circles are the most effective way to bring philanthropy to the front doors of everyday people. There is so much potential in having a world full of people learning about this giving model. In my work at Philanthropy Together, we aim to democratize and diversify philanthropy through the power of giving circles. We believe everyone can be and should be a philanthropist. My work to change the narrative on who gives and who receives is such fuel to light a spark in others. I find the most joy in my work when I’m able to change hearts and minds about getting engaged in their community.

4. How does your gender identity inform your work?

I am part of the 70 percent of women who are in the giving circle movement. Research shows that women and men do not give in the same way so it’s no surprise that collective giving is largely led by women because we tend to be more community-oriented, nurturing and collaborative. These are all values that inform my work because I know first-hand that this work cannot be done alone. We need many people to come together in order to make real change happen.

As a member of the Peninsula Latina Giving Circle, I rally with groups of women year-round to respond to the needs of the community. Because of our strong relationships with grantee partners, they know they can call on us at any time — and they do! For example, when more families began visiting Siena Youth Center’s food pantry at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, their refrigerator went down. Peninsula LGC was able to respond immediately with pooled funding for a new industrial fridge.

5. How can philanthropy support gender equity?

More than half of the world’s population is women yet women have been forgotten and alienated in the philanthropic field, and beyond, for so many years. Philanthropy can lift up women by not staying silent and moving resources where the dollars are most needed. I am a proud member of the National Council of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, dedicated to rigorous research and education in how women give. There is an urgency to create gender equity and philanthropy must take a bold stance. The Women’s March doesn’t take a day off. Moms Rising doesn’t take a day off. These large women-led movements aren’t taking any days off, and philanthropy can’t either. 

6. In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equity movements taking us?

The strides that women have made in recent years have been amazing. Looking ahead to the next 10 years, I hope that we will be living in a world full of feminists; with more men self-identifying as feminists. Gender equity should not be something political, but rather a responsibility. Research shows when women work, they reinvest 90 percent of their income into their families, compared to 35 percent for men. We need to keep pushing on equal pay. We need to keep pushing on 50-percent-women leadership on nonprofit and corporate boards. And even with all women moving in the same direction, we need allies. We need men to be feminists and recognize that in order to leave a better world for our children, we need everyone on the same page.

More on Sara Lomelin:

Sara Lomelin (she/her) is a connector of people and ideas, a relationship builder and a firm believer that everyone can be a philanthropist. As founding executive director of Philanthropy Together, the first organization dedicated to strengthening and scaling the collective giving movement globally, she is working to diversify and democratize philanthropy by creating the infrastructure needed for the giving circle model to flourish in all communities. Lomelin’s work provides a platform for different perspectives in the collective giving field, a unique giving model that has given away nearly $ 1.3 billion in the past two decades and exploded in popularity among diverse audiences in the past five years.

Prior to Philanthropy Together, Sara served as Senior Director of Leadership Philanthropy at Opportunity Fund, the largest nonprofit small business lender in the US. Previously at the Latino Community Foundation, Sara served as VP of Philanthropy for eight years and created the Latino Giving Circle Network™—the largest network of Latinx philanthropists in the US with 22 circles and 500 members.

This interview has been minimally edited.

In The News

Author: Julia Travers


I often cover innovations in science, the arts and social justice. Find my work with NPR, Discover Magazine, APR and Earth Island Journal, among other publications. My portfolio is at jtravers.journoportfolio.com.
View all posts by Julia Travers



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Survey finds weakening donor sentiment in 2022 | Philanthropy news



Fifty-four percent of donors in the United States have a negative view of the direction of the country—alongside growing concern with inflation and recent losses in the stock market—signaling weaker donor sentiment in 2022 and driving near-term pessimism among donors, a report from Dunham+Company finds.

Based on an online survey conducted in April 2022 of 1,400 American donors who gave at least $20 to charity in the past year, the report, Donor confidence falters in light of economy and inflation (5 pages, PDF), found that despite a 15-percentage point increase from last year in the share of respondents saying they did not “feel good about” the direction the country was going in, 98 percent said they intended to continue giving—up from 97 percent in July 2021. The share of donors expressing caution about their giving rose modestly, to 63 percent from 59 percent. Among donors who said they would continue to give, 21 percent intended to give more (compared with 19 percent in 2021), 24 percent planned to give less (compared with 21 percent), and 55 percent intended to give the same (compared with 61 percent).

According to the report, the number of donors who viewed recent stock market losses as determinant of future giving had nearly tripled since last year, rising from 7 percent to 19 percent overall, and even more acutely among donors 45 and older: 23 percent for Gen X donors (up from 8 percent in 2021) and 21 percent for boomers (up from 6 percent). This shift is mirrored in households making $100,000 or more, where 17 percent (up from 5 percent) view the performance of the stock market as a determinant. While the report did not provide data on donors under the age of 45, it noted that boomers, who tend to give more overall, “expressed significantly less caution about giving than their younger counterparts.”

The report suggests that worries about inflation and the potential for an economic downturn are increasingly affecting donor sentiment. Over half of donors (53 percent) were unsure of the direction of the economy or believed it would decline in the coming year (compared with 36 percent last year). Among donors who expect a downturn, 92 percent believed a turnaround would take more than a year (up from 72 percent in 2021), while those believing a turnaround would take two years or more rose to 54 percent (up from 40 percent a year ago). In 2021, 74 percent of donors indicated “the economy” and “personal financial situation” as reasons for giving less. For the most recent survey, Dunham added “inflation and the increased cost of living” as a factor. All told, these three factors accounted for 89 percent of the reasons for giving less in 2022.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Pineapple Studio)



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Charity Of The Year: Past Winners


With the Charity of The Year nominations just around the corner, we thought we’d take you on a trip down memory lane and revisit some of our past winners. We caught up with the incredible teams at Derian House Children’s Hospice and the British Hen Welfare Trust, to find out just how much the award meant to them!

To find out more about how to nominate your charity for the Charity of the Year Award, head to the bottom of this page.

The British Hen Welfare Trust (2018 Winners)

The British Hen Welfare Trust team at the 2018 JustGiving Awards, holding their Award, presented by Lydia Bright.

The British Hen Welfare Trust were crowned Charity Of The Year back in 2018 – after making the top three, they received the most nominations and were presented with their award at a glittery awards ceremony in London.

Since 2005, the charity has been rescuing hens from slaughter and re-homing them as pets throughout the UK. Working with farmers in the egg industry, they’ve re-homed an incredible 850,000 hens to date! The founder, Jane Howorth, received an MBE for her work, after bringing about a ban on battery cages in 2012.

Jane Howorth MBE pictured holding a hen and smiling.

We recently reached out to the team at BHWT to ask them about their experience receiving a JustGiving Award.

“As a charity that is run by a fairly small team, it was simply phenomenal to be recognised by the UK’s biggest fundraising platform and we were overwhelmed to have so much support from the public who nominated us for the award.

We may be small, but we make a big impact, since 2005 we’ve saved over 874,000 hens from slaughter. To be named Charity of the Year is a testament to that hard work and the successes achieved by our staff, volunteers, and supporters around the country.

The past couple of years have been tough for all charities, including our own, but we continue to save around 50,000 hens from slaughter every year. Since winning the award, we’ve developed more ways to improve education about pet hens, built a new Hen Central, and reached new audiences internationally. Being named Charity of the Year was a great honour, and still fills me with pride.

Jane Howarth MBE
Founder of BHWT

Find out more about the British Hen Welfare Trust and donate here.

Derian House Children’s Hospice (2019 Winners)

The Derian House Children’s Hospice team celebrating with presenter Dev Griffin, after receiving their Charity Of The Year Award.

Our 2019 winners, Derian House Children’s Hospice, work tirelessly to help children and young people, whose lives are too short, to make happy memories in an environment of fun, respect and outstanding care.The care they provide is free for families, but costs around £5.7 million to run every year – only 17% of the funding they need comes from the government. They rely entirely on donations from supporters for the remaining 83%. They provide vital support to young people and their families – offering palliative care, respite stays, day care, holidays and end of life support.

The outside of Derian House Children’s Hospice

We’ll let the team tell you a little more about the award, and how much it meant to the charity…

“Derian House Children’s Hospice winning the JustGiving Charity of the Year Award is one of the achievements we’re most proud of. 

That same year we had been rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and had just completed a million-pound refurbishment of our hospice and winning the award felt like the icing on the cake. 

It not only gave us brilliant exposure, meaning that we attracted new donors and were able to reach new families with our services, but it also felt like a real chance for our staff, volunteers and the children we look after to feel proud of everything we do at Derian House. 

The awards night itself was so exciting. We travelled down to London for the night and were so honoured to be at an event alongside such inspirational and wonderful people, as well as celebrities and sporting legends. There was a real feeling in the air of everyone celebrating each other’s achievements, which was just lovely. 

At Derian House, we display our JustGiving Award in the reception of the hospice so everyone who enters the building can see it. We are very proud of this achievement and we were honoured to win it.

Personally, to be involved in this was one of the highlights of my career.

Caroline Taylor
Head of Income, Marketing and Communications

Find out more about Derian House Children’s Hospice and donate here.

Want to get involved?

We’re on the look out for our Charity Of The Year 2022! The nominations for this year’s award will officially open on the 7th July 2022 – could you be in the running?

 We’re looking for nominations from your staff, volunteers and supporters. The more you get before the 22nd of July, the greater your chance of being shortlisted. 

You could be joining the rest of our fundraising finalists, who’ll be up for public vote between the 3rd of August and 11th of September 2022.

Get the most votes, and we’ll be handing over a trophy to you and your team at our ceremony in London this October. Your charity will get exposure and social media coverage – and you get a fantastic night to celebrate your team’s hard work. Sound good?

We’ll be sharing the nomination link on the 7th of July. We can’t wait to read your amazing applications and celebrate together!



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Helmsley Trust awards $9 million to American Heart Association | Philanthropy news



The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced grants totaling $9.3 million to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to expand and enhance rural health and stroke care in Iowa.

A $6.3 million grant will support the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s $7.5 million Mission: Lifeline Stroke initiative to strengthen the full spectrum of stroke care in Iowa, where stroke is a leading cause of death, accounting for more than 1,400 deaths in 2020. The stroke program in Iowa builds on a $4.6 million grant awarded in 2015 to support the launch of Mission: Lifeline STEMI in Iowa to reduce treatment times for acute cardiac care in the cases of ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI).

The Helmsley Trust is also granting $3 million to the American Heart Association (AHA) to launch HeartCorps in rural communities in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wyoming. HeartCorps is a new three-year initiative aimed at establishing a sustainable pipeline of public health workers, reduce cardiovascular risks among rural residents, and accelerate the adoption and implementation of systems changes to improve cardiovascular health.

“We believe that a comprehensive approach is the best way to make the most substantial impact, especially for rural populations that face longer transit times and limited access to specialists,” said Helmsley Trust board member Walter Panzirer.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Chalabala)



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