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The Giving Project Trains Young People to Create Giving Circles


Published April 21, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

A Giving Project training - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • A Giving Project training

Champlain Valley Union High School senior Lena Kerest participates in an annual girls' activism workshop in New York City and is a member of several high school clubs focused on social justice, women's issues and human rights. Last summer, she decided to channel her benevolent energy in a new way — by starting a giving circle. 

Kerest recruited a dozen young women, all seniors at CVU, to join her. Each of them committed to contributing $25 to $50 twice a year to support a cause they felt strongly about. By pooling their money and soliciting additional donations from family and friends, they raised $1,000 for the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, an organization they decided to support in the wake of the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd last May. 

Kerest learned how to create a giving circle by attending a training hosted by the Giving Project. Leslie Halperin of Burlington and Laura Latka of Shelburne launched the initiative last year, aiming to make philanthropy more accessible, especially to the younger generation. 

Giving circles "are a wonderful way to gather people who care about similar issues but aren't necessarily your closest friends," said Latka, "whether they have $10 or $1,000." 

Kerest said she sees her giving circle as an extension of her activism and as a way to make "a tangible impact." 

To date, the Giving Project has trained 19 Vermonters. They've gone on to start 15 giving circles that have donated more than $90,000 to nonprofit organizations. Kerest was the only teenager in her training, but next month the Giving Project will begin a five-week program geared to 14- to 18-year-olds. 

The Launchpad NextGen leadership training program, created in partnership with the national organization Philanthropy Together, will teach teens about the role of nonprofits and give them the skills they need to manage their own circle.

The five sessions — which take place weekly from May 4 to June 1 — are free, funded by a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation. Applications are due by Tuesday, April 27.

Learn more at

The original print version of this article was headlined "Collective Impact"