What was supposed to be a 30-minute coffee chat between Texas Women’s Foundation board members Shonn Brown and Lisa Montgomery at la Madeleine turned into a two-hour discussion that set the stage for the founding of a philanthropic organization dedicated to funding black non-profit organizations in North Texas.
“Before we met, both of us were having separate conversations about this idea of bringing together a group of women who could seriously impact the black community,” Montgomery told Dallas Express. “We were clear that we wanted it to be a diverse group of black women and we wanted them to be diverse in thought and what they did for a living.”
The initial meeting between the two founders led to the launch of Village Giving Circle in 2017, with a $1 million giving amount as its goal.
“We have entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms, attorneys, educators, and non-profit professionals,” said Montgomery, co-chair of the Village Giving Circle. “We brought those friends in and then our initial granting was in April 2018 in Shonn’s backyard. We asked those eight women to invite their friends and they did.” At that time, the group’s goal was to raise some $25,000, but the spirited women walked away with $80,000 in donations that afternoon.
“All of those women were friends of friends of friends, and they all wondered why hadn’t we done this before,” Montgomery said. “None of us could really answer that question but we’re really proud of what we started and we’re extraordinarily proud of where we are right now.”
Just last week, the all-Black female organization awarded $260,000 to some sixteen North Texas non-profit organizations.
“This is not new,” Montgomery said in an interview. “Black women have been giving in our community since the beginning of time. That is what we do as black women and so we wanted to honor that, continue it, grow it and expand it. I feel really honored to be doing this work and most importantly, to be doing it alongside my sisters and women that I respect and who are passionate about our community the way that I am.”
While the Texas Women’s Foundation is focused on funding non-profits that benefit women and girls, Montgomery did not feel the Village Giving Circle had the luxury of just focusing on one gender of black people.
“I have a black son,” she said. “Shonn has a black son. We have brothers and uncles. We know their plight and some of the challenges that our black men face. So, we decided early on that we would focus on the entire black community, not just women and girls.”
One of the recipients of their Fall 2021 grant cycle is At Last!, which provides operational support to a residential scholar program catering to Dallas ISD students attending public school.
“A lot of our non-profits are based in Dallas,” Montgomery said. “We’ve had a couple in the Collin County area and this year we finally got one in Tarrant County. We’ve been really pushing for that the last couple of years because we do want to expand into some of the other areas of North Texas.”
At Last! received the Village Giving Circle’s largest gift of $50,000.
“At Last! is the innovative, compassionate brain child of Randy Bowman who created a home away from home,” Montgomery said. “He calls it an urban boarding experience where students live at home on the weekend but Monday through Friday, they live at At Last! There’s a house mother. There are two onsite tutors. They go to school during the day and they have the same resources that middle-class families have like homework support, hot meals, and supervised homework assistance.”
The number of non-profits receiving grants from the Village Giving Circle has grown annually, according to Montgomery. “The first year we granted nine and the second year we granted 12,” she said. “It continues to grow as our funds continue to grow and as our impact continues to grow. Our first year, we may have gotten 17 applications. We could not have imagined that we would be where we are now.”
Since 2017, Montgomery said the number of black non-profits requesting a grant has grown to 40 to 45. Unlike other grant programs, which generally demand the completion of an application of at least 20 pages, the Village Giving Circle’s application is only four pages.
“A lot of larger non-profit operations have grant writers on staff,” she added. “They have development teams so these folks know how to go after dollars but a lot of the black-run non-profits may only have a staff of one or two people. So, even to complete a grant application is a stretch for them. That’s one of the differences that we see. One of the other differences that we see is our non-profits are in the trenches with some of the challenges that face our community.”
Golf 3:16, which operates a golf mentorship program in Frisco, received the smallest award of $11,000.
“Golf 3:16 was started by two African-American men who play golf every weekend. They have a passion for golf, but also serve as mentors in their church,” Montgomery said. “They were talking one day on the golf course about introducing golf to children who would have no opportunity to play golf. They use the game of golf to teach life skills, like perseverance, leadership and overcoming challenges. They have been in operation for seven years and kids have now gotten golf scholarships to go to college as a result of being introduced to golf by Golf 3:16.”
As the organization heads into its fifth year of giving, it is quickly approaching the $1 million goal set four years ago.
“We give out everything we raise every year with the exception of a few administrative dollars,” Montgomery said. “All of our members are black women but we welcome donors from across the country. We have a lot of supporters that are not black women. The possibilities are endless.”