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Full Circle News


March 2024

Message from Leadership

“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it’s right.”  – Rosa Parks

It’s Women’s History Month!

Let’s reflect and lift up all the “right things” women have done and are doing for our community! 

Speaking of women as a force for good, I recently represented you (and our giving circle of more than 320 members) alongside 100 inspiring women leaders of Anne Arundel County. The commitment and strength of these women are INCREDIBLE! (Just like yours!)

Thinking about women’s history, our 15 AAWGT founders made history 18 years ago when they launched this collective of amazing women to “improve the quality of life for women and families in Anne Arundel County.” Please note their names here and thank them.

Calling all community members: jump in with us – AAWGT waters are warm, inclusive, and welcoming! We have many options for joining and making a difference in the community and through funding community-based organizations focused on women and families.

Don’t forget to sign up to attend the March 25th Women in Leadership event: Civil Rights Then and Now: Women and Families of Anne Arundel County. It is open to the public and free of charge. In-person attendees will be treated to refreshments and an opportunity to meet the panelists and to network.

May the winds of March blow us into spring and May days for voting on grants!

In service,

Margaret Davis, President
Michelle Hellstern, Vice President

A Note from the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County

The Importance of Giving Circles and AAWGT in our County

Mary Spencer, President and CEO

Like a beacon of light illuminating the path toward a brighter future for communities, giving circles such as Anne Arundel Women Giving Together (AAWGT) inspire like-minded people to join together and pool their financial resources to make a greater impact.

Giving circles, a form of collective giving, emerged in the 1990s and have tripled in number since 2007. Most often women-centric, giving circles allow members to collectively decide on where the funds are most needed, enabling them to make meaningful and positive changes in their respective communities.

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Founded in 2006, and operating as a component fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, AAWGT supports initiatives that improve the quality of life for Anne Arundel County women and families through grants and education. Through the years, AAWGT has funded 52 nonprofits with more than $1.7 million in grants, made possible through the collective giving of its 300+ members.

AAWGT follows the principles of trust-based philanthropy, embodying a set of values aimed at promoting equity, redistributing power, and building mutually accountable relationships. This, in turn, creates collaborative partnerships among members as they decide together where funds are most needed after thoughtful and extensive research. Over the past few years, AAWGT has made changes to their grants process to encourage a wider range of nonprofits to apply for support. Its renewed emphasis on listening carefully and learning directly from the community about the most critical issues facing women and their families allows AAWGT to give more strategically and effectively address these challenges.

The Community Foundation is proud of our partnership with AAWGT and together we are making a significant difference in the lives of generations of residents of Anne Arundel County. The staff of CFAAC believe in the mission of AAWGT, with several of our staff members also fully engaged as members. We are committed to serving our donors, the members of AAWGT, the nonprofits of Anne Arundel County, and our community./font>

AAWGT Founders

Colleen Baldwin
Patricia Barland Brasse
Joy Beer
Kathleen Brooks
Shauna Chabot
Anna Greenberg
Barbara Hoffstein
Betsy Kimrey
Becki Kurdle
Debbie Richardson Daugherty
Lynda Salamon
Sharon Stewart
Susan Swayze
Helene Tenner
Abbie von Schlegel

Coming Soon!

AAWGT Spring Open House

Wednesday, April 10, 2024, 5:30-7:30 pm, The Blue Heron Center, Quiet Waters Park

Free and open to the public. Click HERE to register.

A Year  in the Life of the Grants Committee

As you are reading this newsletter, 46 of AAWGT’S members are busy reviewing grants. The official 2024 Giving Circle Grant cycle began on January 2. By the February 1 deadline, 48 organizations had submitted grants designed to improve the quality of life of women and families in Anne Arundel County. Almost a third of the applicants had revenues of less than $100,000 in 2023.

The reviewers are grouped into six teams of two team leaders and five to six reviewers who then work to select the proposals that seem most likely to produce change. Together, this year’s proposals are requesting almost $1,000,000. Organizations can request between $5,000 and $25,000. The Giving Circle has about $185,000 to distribute this year. There is a lot of need and there are many organizations working hard to fill that need. On May 1, a ballot will be released so that the entire membership can vote to select the organizations to receive funding for the 2024 Grant year beginning July 1, 2024.

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The Grants Team (Jean Mitchell, Stealey Ashley, Stacey FitzSimmons) and the Grants Systems Team (Cindy Whittle, Barbara Haight, Judy Coughlin, Ann Whitcomb) begin their planning in August. Over the last several years, the grants teams and all reviewers have worked hard to imbed trust-based philanthropy and DEIAB principles into the entire grants process. We have learned a great deal from our community partners about the best ways to work together to meet the needs of women and families.

Member Highlight:
Meet Sonja Swygert

Sonja Swygert, born and educated in Baltimore, joined AAWGT in 2021. Active in the non-profit space, and then on the board of the Community Foundation, “I saw joining AAWGT as a way to give as part of a group of committed women, while also putting that pooled money in the Foundation. Our dollars make a greater impact that way. It’s also important to me that AAWGT’s vetting process is of such high quality and that the members are making the decisions as to where the money goes.”

Sonja currently is on the Board of Maryland Hall. “I’ve made a contribution to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Maryland Hall, thanks to the support of the new executive director and the board, who have made a difference through a commitment to fund and engage a DEI consultant. Arts organizations need a diverse audience and staff to support the community.”

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She also is a volunteer at the Banneker Douglass Museum and previously was an active fundraiser for Howard University, especially for the Moorland Spingarn Library and Howard University Hospital, during her then-husband’s tenure as the university’s president.

Sonja received her undergraduate degree from Morgan State University and later a Master of Education degree from Temple University. In her early career, she taught in the Baltimore City schools, adult education in Brooklyn, NY, was director of Galbraith Daycare Center in D.C. and the Hahneman Daycare Center for Exceptional Children, and taught Head Start for special needs children at Green Tree School—both in Philadelphia.

On the hobby side, Sonja is a collector of African American art and loves travel, particularly southwest U.S. and Italy. She lived with the family in Ghana and Israel, reflecting her spouse’s teaching career.

A resident of the Annapolis area for 20 years, Sonja now resides in the historic district of Annapolis. She has two sons, Michael, who graduated from Temple University’s Law School, and works for Baltimore County, and Patrick, Jr., who graduated from University of Virginia and Howard University Law School, and is self-employed.

In closing, Sonja says, “At this point in my life, I see myself as paying it forward and using my experience to do good.”

A Warm Welcome to Our Newest Members:

Diana Love, Emily Kavanagh, Colleen Sandler, Sheila Friedman, Levke Haas, Joan Stansfield

Find us on Facebook:
Anne Arundel Women Giving Together |
AAWGT is a component fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County
AAWGT is a member of Philanos: Accelerating Philanthropy through Women’s Collective Giving

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