The popularity of giving circles -- a form of philanthropy where donors with shared values pool their money to fund specific causes or organizations -- has exploded in recent years. In partnership with Grapevine, we’re spotlighting several circles that are centering equity in their work and addressing the root causes of social issues. 

Meet Vital Little Plans.

Tell us about the purpose of your giving circle. 

Vital Little Plans is an artist collective and giving circle that supports equitable, creative, and vital plans that are arts-driven and community-led for neighborhoods and places.

We believe all communities have the right to make independent choices about their future. We recognize the power dynamics existing between communities and governments, institutions, and economies are unbalanced and exploitative. This is rooted in systems of racism, colonialism, and patriarchy leading to the inequitable triple threat of underfunding, displacement, and lack of opportunity. 

Vital Little Plans exists to support creative and disruptive initiatives that are needed for communities to deconstruct harmful frameworks and advance equitable outcomes. We support initiatives led by and benefiting people who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Queer, People with Disabilities, and Working Class — and any intersection of these identities.

Please share more about the leadership of your giving circle. Who started it and why?

Our founding members are a group of seven artists: Adam Erickson, Mari García, Chris Hope, Irfana Jetha Noorani, Michaela Paulette Shirley, Sarah Westlake, and Thomas Young. 

Our collective is multidisciplinary, multiracial, and geographically diverse. We are storytellers, media producers, dancers, theater makers, and painters. Together, we’ve envisioned a co-leadership model which exemplifies the ideals we hope to see in the world. In short, we use a relational, trust-based consensus model for decision making. 

While there’s no quick fix for the systemic issues our society faces, we do have cause for hope with the emergence of trust-based, community-oriented funding practices — philanthropists working cooperatively with peers and with the communities they are meant to serve. To join in this work, our collective formed a giving circle to help democratize philanthropic power and encourage citizen power in giving and impacting our field of creative community development. 

We’re interested in a long and holistic view of social change. We believe long-term social change must integrate arts and cultural strategies. We see how art meets the needs of our communities, and so we’re pooling our resources to help advance those creative efforts. 

What progress have you made so far? 

As our name suggests, we’re big fans of little plans. Accordingly, we started small. Launching our circle in October 2020 as part of the ArtPlace Virtual Summit, we invited a community of peers to join in giving to help support three remarkable grassroots initiatives: 

Within minutes of inviting our colleagues to pitch in, our Grapevine fund doubled in size from $1,000 to more than $2,000. We experienced the power of collective giving in action! In 2021, each of our founding members have committed to giving 1% of their annual income and .1% of their wealth to our fund, and we look forward to inviting others to join our giving community. 

Why did you choose the giving circle model?

It’s a fun and social way to stay connected with colleagues; building community and taking meaningful steps in creating the future we want to see. 

What does impact and success look like to you?

Success is moving resources (including time, money, and talent) to grassroots organizations  that are finding creative solutions to community challenges and opportunities. We aim to become advocates and allies for these organizations; building relationships and helping introduce their work to more people who can help support their efforts. 

One longer term goal is to help inspire and build coalitions of funders, artists, community residents, and cultural organizations working in partnership. We believe a broad movement of these allies helping advance equitable community outcomes would eventually help turn the tide on an array of interconnected issues — including social and environmental justice. This work lays the foundation for a seismic cultural shift away from the present trajectory of separation and distrust toward a deeper unity and solidarity among people. It's a big vision that starts with local folks coming together and making vital little plans. 

What do you want potential donors to know about giving circles and the issue you’re addressing?

Across the U.S. in every community, creative efforts are being made to repair trust, uphold dignity, and build solidarity. If you want a break from the seemingly hopeless state of gridlock in our national politics, it’s time to act locally. Find groups that are building bridges of understanding; you won’t have to look far. Get involved and volunteer your time, or start a giving circle with friends to support these local efforts, or both. Right now especially, we’ve found the brightest lights shining in our own neighborhoods. 

How can donors get involved with your giving circle or generally participate in the giving circle movement?

Our giving circle was incubated through Philanthropy Together’s Launchpad For You training program. We’re grateful for the incredible program and resources that helped us define our values and launch our collective work. It was a fun, collaborative process that anyone can do. 

If you’re interested in joining our giving community, you can easily make a contribution at the Vital Little Plans Grapevine page