This article originally appeared in the Desert Sun, January 2022

The 150 Circle of Giving is a membership organization where community-minded individuals make a minimum gift of $150 annually to benefit nonprofit organizations working in the Coachella Valley. Currently, the group funds arts and humanities, education, human services, public benefit, animal welfare, environment, and health. Members of the organization meet regularly, discuss local organizations and nominate organizations to receive grants from these pooled funds.

A group of volunteer advisers researches each organization that is in the final round of nominations to ensure they are in good standing with the IRS, the state, are financially sound, and are having a positive impact in the community. Member’s donations are held in a fund by the Inland Empire Community Foundation until grants are awarded.

“We are all philanthropists at whatever level of giving we can give,” the group’s founder Jack Alotto said. “If philanthropy literally means love of humankind, then what we do as a group is love people.”

In normal years, members would meet in person to hear each organization give a presentation on their programming and how a grant will positively impact their work. Members then vote on which organization they wish to receive a grant from. The available funds are then divided between the top choices and the runners-up. In Dec 2021, 150 Circle of Giving awarded a $20,000 grant to Alianza and Animal Samaritans. Additional grants of $3,300 were provided to Mizell Senior Center, Boo2Bullying, and Martha’s Village.

One of the most rewarding aspects of belonging to the 150 Circle is learning about the great work that is being done in the community, Alotto said. Nonprofits often note that they are the “best-kept secret” in the Valley because they do not have the capacity to do much marketing. Socializing with others who are engaged in philanthropy gives all members the opportunity to discover organizations that are new to them.

“Meeting people who share the value of philanthropists whether they give $150 or $100,000 has been a great joy to me,” Alotto said. “It enriches my life, their lives, and the lives of the community.”The 150 Circle is as much about socializing as it is about forwarding philanthropy. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Circle of Giving has not been able to meet in person. Although the group met by Zoom and voted by email this year, Alotto said that meeting online does not have the same impact.

For now, the organization is suspending membership until it is safe and comfortable for everyone to meet in person. However, community members who wish to support the fund for future of grants awards are welcome to give to the fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. Those wishing to join the 150 Circle in the future can visit the organization’s website.

While the 150 Circle is only a few years old, the group has given away nearly $100,000. Ultimately, Alotto hopes that the organization will continue to grow and introduce more of the community to joys of engaging in philanthropy, socializing with like-minded peers, and experiencing the gratitude of the nonprofits that receive support.

Alotto encourages the community to discover new nonprofits and find out more about them. He suggests contacting them, asking them questions, and discovering why it would be meaningful to support them. He also reminds those who have favorite organizations to continue to support them.

“It doesn’t matter the amount of your gift; it just matters that you give,” Alotto said. “Giving is an act of love and a heart-centered activity.”

 

More information: jacka150circleofgiving@gmail.com or https://www.150circleofgiving.com/