Please don’t call TPC a Giving Circle

Thoughts from TPC President E. Marla Felcher

Most sewing circles are all women…

Every once in a while I hear someone refer to TPC as “a women’s giving circle.” The label makes me cringe. It brings to mind an image of well-behaved ladies sitting around a circle engaged in a passive task – sewing. The women chatter and stitch. This image has little to do with how I view The Philanthropy Connection’s busy, generous, wise, and opinionated members. Why?

For starters, we’re too big. With over 250 members, we’d be hard-pressed to find a venue large enough to accommodate a circle with this many chairs. And even if TPC’s Education & Engagement Programs Committee did manage to find such a space, how would we hear what anyone but our closest circle-neighbors had to say?

Male Sewing Circle
… but some are all men.

Perhaps my deepest objection, however, has to do with the fact that sewing circles are about a single repetitive, monotonous task. Sewing undoubtedly takes an enormous amount of patience and skill, but there is nothing repetitive or monotonous about TPC’s work. We evaluate grant proposals; analyze financial documents; learn from our Grantees about issues like homelessness, foster care, and immigration; provide Young Philanthropist Fellowships to encourage young women to join us; and, award grants. Doing this work, we’ve created a community of like-minded women, willing and able to make Boston a better place. Can a sewing circle do all of that?

As it turns out, the answer is yes. My stereotype of sewing circles was wrong. In the mid-1880s sewing circles had their heyday in New England, when they were formed primarily to raise money for community needs, and, in the case of the Worcester Ladies Anti-Slavery Sewing Circle, to fight for women’s rights and to end slavery. In 1845, Nantucket’s First Congregational Church Ladies Union Sewing Circle raised $700 (about $22,000 in today’s dollars) to pay off church debt. Like TPC, the Nantucket Sewing Circle charged a membership fee ($1); unlike TPC, the fee was reduced ($.50) for unmarried members.

Despite my newfound knowledge of the impressive work of our ancestral sister-philanthropists, the term “giving circle” still does not sit right with me. Increasingly, the image that pops into my mind when I think of TPC’s members is a yoga pose called warrior-ii-poseWarrior II. Practicing the pose makes me feels active, strong, and ready to take on the world – three necessary (but not sufficient) qualities required to run an organization of busy, generous, wise, and opinionated women.

I’m not the only one working in the non-profit sector who feels drawn to the term “warrior.” Recently, I learned that one of TPC’s Grantees, Kelley Lane, the executive director (ED) of Sibling Connections, has been nominated by a group of fiercely philanthropic Boston-area women to be their next Charity Warrior. What’s a Charity Warrior? Here’s what Kelley’s nominators say:

“We all know Charity Warriors. She’s the mother who spends countless hours acquiring auction items for the upcoming fundraiser. She’s the marketing executive who helps support a non-profit’s mission by joining the Board of Directors. She’s the recent graduate who sends countless email blasts to all her contacts to raise money for her charity race. She’s the go-getter who sees a need and starts her own non-profit. These are the women who fight to raise the necessary funds for important causes.”

Kelley is clearly a Charity Warrior. To start with, she and her husband have fostered more than 40 children over the last 9 years. Now, as ED of Sibling Connections, she goes to battle every day on behalf of siblings who have been separated by the foster care system.

The next time someone asks you what The Philanthropy Connection is, I urge you to think of Kelley, her 40 foster children, and the work she does every day, doing battle within our broken foster care system. Let’s use this image to come up with a term that more aptly describes what Kelley and TPC do than “giving circle.” How about a Warrior Sphere? Warrior Circle? I’m not sure I’ve landed on the perfect term yet; if you have an idea, please send it to me at:

In the meantime, you can honor and support TPC’s official Charity Warrior, Kelley Lane, by casting your vote for her no later than February 11, 9 p.m., here:


Marla First Name Signature


No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply