Chair Talk

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 | The BWGC

 Have you ever considered that the Circle is a like a big jigsaw puzzle?  Well that’s what the Circle can feel like when you reflect on the variety the activities offered to our members and try to figure out how they actually connect. 

If we could collapse our most recent Circle year into an audio- visual collage, the pieces might look like this:

• A flurry of prospective member events, coupled with an orientation and a mentoring program to help new members feel connected;

• Multiple teams of grant readers absorbed in reviewing grant applications, interacting with non-profits through site visits, and passionately recommending funding for those they found worthy;

• Circle members trying to choose among many deserving grantees to vote for awards;

• Liaisons from the Post-Grants Evaluation Committee connecting with new grantees to ensure that our funds are used as intended and to foster grantee success;

• An array of education meetings featuring policy experts sharing their ideas on critical topics ranging from the future of our youth, homelessness, health care, and the state of our public schools;

• The amazing stories of hope, resilience, and accomplishments of women who have benefitted from our grants as recounted at Full Circle meetings, Circle Forum events, and prospective member meetings;

• Field trips to see the Baltimore City Health Department and Maryland legislature in action;

• Engaging evening discussions sponsored by Circle Reads featuring important books such as Evicted and Hillbilly Elegy;

• Inspiring talks from community advocates, insightful information about legislative initiatives affecting Baltimore, and resources on how to become an advocate sponsored by Circle Advocacy;

• Direct volunteer engagement with our grantees though Circle Works–treating senior citizens from St. Mary’s Outreach to lunch and making blankets with students from the Baltimore Women’s Leadership School for Women for use in Mercy’s radiation oncology patients;

• Networking events sponsored by Grantee Connect to provide opportunities for grantees to listen and learn from each other, and build collaborative relationships;

• A constant supply of new content appearing in our five newsletters and on our Facebook page;

• A brand new website under construction.

As Circle Co-chairs, we have tried to experience as much of the Circle activity as possible. We are awed by how each piece of the puzzle works beautifully as a standalone activity, but we are always looking for how all the pieces connect.  Our conclusion is simple – our mission and our values connect us.

The development of the BWGC values statements, ratified by the Circle at the May 17 meeting, provided us with a unique opportunity to connect what members say they value about the Circle into a statement of shared experience.  The development of the new website has been not only a learning experience – stimulating creative juices while requiring us to learn a new language – but offers a perfect and timely platform to share our mission statement and values. 

Although our Circle year isn’t quite finished — we still have a Circle Forum panel on sex trafficking, a legislative update, and a talk with Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen on the horizon—we both want to thank each and every member for your commitment to informed philanthropy and for all of your support.  We especially appreciate the former Circle Co-Chairs who have generously shared their wisdom and lessons learned with us as we have navigated our first year.  It has been a wonderful, meaningful year! 

Vivian Manekin and Jodi Dunn