Black Philanthropy Month: A WFCO Staff Member’s Journey In Philanthropy
What I’ve Learned As A New Member of A Giving Circle
“When I think of giving, I think of a common practice in my culture called ‘sou-sou'”
I’m Manushkka Sainvil, a Brooklyn-born Haitian American. I love my people, food, language, and rich culture. And I love what I’m learning through my journey in philanthropy.
When I think of giving, I think of a common practice in my culture called “sou-sou”. A sou-sou is an informal rotating savings club that is not exclusive to Haitian communities – it’s common in many Caribbean and African cultures. In sou-sou, a group of people contribute an equal amount of money into a pool either weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The total pool, also known as a “min” (hand, in Haitian Kreyol) is then paid to one member of the club on a previously agreed-on schedule. The pool rotates until all members have received a share and the sou-sou is complete or it starts over. It’s as simple as that.
I’m also a small business owner, executive and board coordinator for The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, and newly minted member of the Black women’s giving circle, Sisterhood of Philanthropists Impacting Needs (SPIN), held at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
During Black Philanthropy Month, it’s important for me to illuminate the work SPIN has done over the years. But first, we must recognize that SPIN would never have been possible without the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado (ULFC). ULFC is non-profit that offers a 10-month leadership development program based in Denver. Created in 2007, ULFC has a rich history of cultivating leaders in business, politics, and most importantly, community service. Every year, each cohort comes up with ideas for community service projects. The projects are voted on and the top three become the ULFC projects for that year. SPIN was the community service project born from the 2013 cohort and officially became an organization in 2014. I’m also a proud graduate of the 2017 cohort.
My journey in philanthropy has shown that investing in smaller, overlooked organizations can create big impact
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey in philanthropy – both as a Foundation employee and philanthropist – is that it can have a meaningful impact on a small scale. In the nine years SPIN has operated, grants have been awarded every other year. Grants range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. In a time when applying for grants can be laborious, time consuming, and not always proportionate to the effort, those funds can go a long way for smaller organizations that are often overlooked. Last year, I had the pleasure of presenting, along with my SPIN Sisters, checks to the following organizations:
- Star Girlz Empowerment – A program for girls and young adult women transitioning into adolescence, facing challenges, and surviving traumatic experiences.
- Black Business Initiative – Creating a vibrant community of Black entrepreneurs, professionals, and leaders for individual and collective agency and access to capital, resources, and training.
- CTN Media – Offering a global platform for the people that centers the Black economic revolution and other important issues of our time.
- Elevating Connections – Building sustained positive relationships for current & former youth in foster care-including those experiencing sibling separation-to find their voice & build meaningful community connections.
- Girls, Inc. – Informed by young girls and their families, it teaches young girls to value themselves, take risks, and discover their inherent strengths. Long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment, and research-based programming equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.
- QueenShipp – Empowers young people including queer, trans, and non-binary students through a holistic approach that includes leadership development, mentorship, and community engagement to develop emotionally intelligent and civically minded leaders who contribute to their families and greater communities.
A giving circle offers accessible philanthropy, friendships
In addition to helping me see myself as a real philanthropist, what I love most about SPIN is the new friends I’ve made and the deep bonds of friendship woven between the 22 members. Every year, we have a three-day retreat and the retreat can look however you want it. Hit the ground running, strategize, party, or sleep in. I went on my first retreat last year and never felt for a moment like an outsider or the “new girl.”
I look forward with excitement for the future of SPIN and the opportunities to make a greater impact in my community.