When people hear the word “philanthropist,” many think of wealthy individuals like Bill Cook, who give thousands or millions to not-for-profit organizations. The New Philanthropists of Bloomington wants to change that perception by encouraging regular folks to give small amounts and pool their resources.

“It’s a giving circle,” says member Julie Gudaitis, 23, owner of Massage On The Square. “The whole idea behind it is that instead of individual people donating small amounts of money to different organizations, we pool our donations and give to one organization so we can have a larger impact.”

It was in 2008 that graduates of Leadership Bloomington-Monroe County, a community leadership program affiliated with the IU School of Continuing Studies, conceived the New Philanthropists organization. They approached the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County to serve as their 501(c)(3) “host” and began their work during the 2009-2010 school year.

The group met with local nonprofits and, in April 2010, voted to donate to Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, contributing $2,000 to the food pantry and its gardening and nutrition programs. Another $1,000 from member gifts went into an endowment at the Community Foundation that will provide continuing support for the community.

“Giving circles like this one are a trend right now,” says Ginger Simpson, who served as the group’s liaison from the Community Foundation during its first year. “It’s grassroots philanthropy, geared toward people who are new to charitable giving.” Simpson says that the New Philanthropists not only contributes money but also encourages its members to learn about different nonprofits in the area.

The minimum donation is $200. Members attend meetings once a month, which Gudaitis says she enjoys both for the social engagement and the business at hand.

“There are all kinds of people involved—business owners, parents of people I went to school with. It’s very open. Anyone can join. And it’s a very fun group, too. We meet, hang out, and share common goals.”