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Annual Gift

The Community Foundation turns focus to younger donors.

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Recently, Melissa Wolowicz has enjoyed asking people for money.

"Typically, we're on the other side of things," says the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis staffer. "We don't really fund-raise."

The Community Foundation, which was established in 1969, manages more than 950 charitable funds, giving away more than $40 million in grants last year. But last fall, they began thinking of ways to engage the next generation of donors. The answer: Give 365, a fund for people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s to make a small donation in hopes of making a big difference.

"People our age are interested in this concept," Wolowicz says. "They like the idea of pitching in together."

For the fund, which launched officially June 1st with a reception at the Community Foundation, they are looking for 60 households to donate $365. That money, along with a matching grant by the Community Partnership Fund, will mean about $20,000 in grants this year to local nonprofits.

The rest of the funding will be put in an endowment fund for the program.

To decide which nonprofits receive funding, donors will vote on the proposals. The idea is based on what is typically called a giving circle.

"I find something cool that I would like to support," Wolowicz says. "Then I find 10 friends, and we pitch in together."

Many of the donors who have already signed up found out about the program through Facebook and social networking.

"It counts when your friends say this is important and that you should participate," Wolowicz says.

Though Give 365 is geared toward younger donors, anyone is eligible.

Doug and Sissy Carpenter were the first to commit to Give 365, seeing it as something of a family fund for Memphis.

"We saw a way to get a group of people together," Doug Carpenter says. "People will realize that this collective money can make a change. I'm also interested in seeing what the collective group has an interest in funding."

He thinks that the fund will expose younger donors to nonprofits and charities that they may then want to give more time or money to. The Community Foundation is thinking similarly.

"We imagine people will do this for a little while and then," Wolowicz says, "move onto something else."

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