Inside Wheaton’s Giving Circles

There’s a new way for members of the Wheaton community to join together to show their support—Giving Circles, a form of group philanthropy that will connect networks of Wheaton supporters to their interests and passions.

“Giving Circles will strengthen support for high-priority initiatives at Wheaton,” says Merritt Crowley, Vice President for Advancement. “For the College’s annual supporters, Giving Circles offer targeted philanthropic opportunities to support initiatives that link what they love most about Wheaton with the College’s funding priorities.”

Wheaton has a rich history of donor groups banding together to amplify their giving. Through the years, numerous class scholarships have been endowed, internships and academic awards have been established to honor community members, patrons provide unwavering support of the visual and performing arts, and Wheaton boosters bolster funding for varsity athletics and club sports. Giving Circles build on the natural spirit of giving by affinity groups.

Patty Grundy, Director of the Wheaton Fund, points to a call with two volunteers—Hope Gallagher Ogletree ’75 and Laura Atwood Kottler ’84—that set Giving Circles in motion. “The fact that the idea for Giving Circles started so organically from Wheaton volunteers really excites me,” she says. “It’s such an inclusive approach to fundraising. Everyone can participate and see the impact of their gift. We believe Giving Circles will leverage capacity for giving to areas of interest and promote greater involvement on campus among alumni, parents, and friends who want to mentor students, volunteer their time, or lead initiatives. Hope and Laura made a strong case that Giving Circles would be a great way to grow support for Wheaton.”

Hope, who serves as Senior Director of Development at the Gabelli School of Business and Senior Director of Fordham University’s Women’s Philanthropy Initiatives, has more than thirty years’ experience in fundraising. She is passionate about the power of philanthropy to connect community members to institutional mission. 

“The impact of a Giving Circle is multi-faceted,” says Hope. “Giving Circles help alums get closer to the College and help to expand their relationships in the community beyond their classmates. Alumni get to know one another inside the Giving Circle. At Fordham, in the business school, Giving Circles have been a great recruiting tool for our advisory boards, guest speakers, mentors, and student-alumni panel discussions. As a result, members of the Giving Circle develop a closer relationship with the institution, and that engagement allows them to see how they can make an even bigger impact.”

To start, four Giving Circles have been created at Wheaton:

  • Jay Goodman Endowed Fund for the Social Sciences—honors one of Wheaton’s most beloved and respected educators. The fund will give faculty and students opportunities to conduct field research, collaborate on presentations at academic conferences, and more.
  • Wheaton Pride Scholarship—established with a generous $30,000 three-year commitment by President Whelan. The scholarship will support LGBTQ+ student and allies with demonstrated financial need.
  • Holcombe Austin Campus Ecosystem Fund—to preserve and protect the natural beauty of Wheaton’s 400+ acre campus. The fund is named in honor of Holcombe Austin, who taught philosophy at Wheaton for more than thirty years.

“What I like best about Giving Circles is the inclusivity,” says Hope. “Donors at every gift level can make the circle stronger. What I’ve done with the Giving Circle at Fordham is create a women’s philanthropy program. Fifty-five percent of Fordham’s living alumni population is female, but they had not been engaged as donors. The classic fundraising model is built around male philanthropy, which can be competitive. Women like to work together collaboratively—they want to see their giving elevate the collective achievements of their community.”

Wheaton’s first four Giving Circles are designed to maximize group donations for academic programs, scholarship support, and campus preservation. By pooling their resources, Giving Circle members can make a much greater impact on the issues they care about than they could individually.

Reflecting on her forty-eight years of giving to Wheaton, Hope says, “I give because of the quality of the liberal arts education that I received. It was life-changing. I was privileged to sit on the Alumni Board when President Dale Marshall was at Wheaton. What I loved about that experience—and it parallels the value of Giving Circles—I got to meet alums across the generations who cared as much about Wheaton as I do.”