With Ramadan beginning this week, the American Muslim Community Foundation (AMCF) is continuing its tradition of connecting Muslims on giving. The American Muslim Women’s Giving Circle, founded in early 2021, is a collective of Muslim women around the United States dedicated to making bigger impact through the power of their collective giving.
“We have created the first national giving circle for Muslim women,” said AMCF in a press release, “so that we may work together strategically to make a bigger and more long-lasting impact in our communities. Bismillah!”
AMCF is known for its unique giving circle structures, including one in the form of a Fantasy Football League for Muslim participants (whoever “wins” the season gets to choose the organization receiving the circle’s funds). Other circles are regionally-focused, including circles in San Francisco and New York.
“Since 2016, [AMCF] has been able to distribute more than $7 million working with everyday families,” said Muhi Khwaja, co-founder and director of development & philanthropy at AMCF. “We offer a lot of unique opportunities for people to virtually connect, nationally connect, and others are more membership or referral-based.”
Khwaja and the leadership board of AMCF are graduates of Philanthropy Together’s Launchpad For Hosts program, dedicated to helping philanthropic intermediaries host giving circles within their institution. Through this program, AMCF was able to brainstorm with fellow giving circle host institutions, utilize templates and resources to strengthen their work, and connect as a team in a new, unique way.
AMCF’s participation in Launchpad For Hosts fueled the launch of two new initiatives: An interfaith giving circle focused on ending hate and the American Muslim Women’s Giving Circle.
In its first grant cycle, the American Muslim Women’s Giving Circle distributed $23,000 to Facing Abuse in Community Environments, Peaceful Families Project, and Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation.
Espousing the Muslim alms-giving tenet of zakat, the American Muslim Women’s Giving Circle collects gifts of any amount into a pool of funds. Grantmaking decisions are made through a nomination and vote process: Upon joining the circle, new Members may each nominate one organization to receive funding.
This nomination is based on a few selection criteria. Nominated organizations must be:
- Listed in AMCF’s Nonprofit Directory (or added to it by filling out a Nonprofit Eligibility Form)
- Devoted to work alleviating women’s issues, particularly those of Muslim women in the US, and ideally woman-founded and/or woman-led
- Devoted to serving zakat-eligible women
Following nominations, circle members will vote on their worthy charities, with the top three invited to present in front of the group in the summer. After discussion and voting from the Members (a.k.a. “Deliberation Day”), the circle will distribute funds in a 50%, 30%, 20% system to the top-ranked organizations.
Members of the circle — Muslim women contributing $420 or more over the course of the year — earn one vote per giving cycle to determine which organizations the fund will support. To join the circle, members must:
- Commit to membership dues of $420/year (or $105/quarter)*
- Attend giving circle deliberations to determine which organizations receive funding
- Build the community by spreading the word and hosting events or inviting women to join the giving circle
- Champion female-led organizations or female-adjacent causes
*The Foundation will accept donations of any amount, but only women paying the full annual dues will be considered full Members with a vote in the grantmaking process. Women are also welcome and encouraged to donate more than the minimum amount needed to pay annual dues, but doing so will not lead to any more votes.
“As long as we have those thoughtful and strategic conversations, I think that any giving circle can be successful with the proper planning,” said Khwaja. “At AMCF, we want to be hosting more of these powerful giving circles, and allow them to do what they do best in terms of connecting their friends to great nonprofit organizations. We can be a resource to those communities to collect and distribute those funds to the charities that they choose.”
In addition to the giving circle renewing their membership for this year, AMCF will be distributing Sadaqa Boxes to all members for their participation in 2022. You can find out about the wonderful organizations, nonprofit leaders, and more through the Foundation’s #MuslimPhilanthropy Podcast. For more information on AMCF’s mission and ways to build wealth and charitable giving, check out its panel on Financial Empowerment for Women.
To give with other Muslim women around the country, be an ally, or support women-focused and led causes, learn more about the American Muslim Women's Giving Circle. AMCF is excited for the American Muslim Women’s Giving Circle to plan its second year and expand their membership. If you’re interested in joining or taking on a leadership role, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philanthropy Together aims to strengthen and scale the giving circle movement by working with giving circle networks and organizations like the American Muslim Community Foundation. Learn more at philanthropytogether.org.