2017-06-08 / Front Page

Roach lays groundwork for ‘giving circle’


ROACH ROACH When it comes to charity, the Roach family has experience circling the wagons. Fittingly, circles have been the culmination of those efforts.

In September, roughly two years after the story circle at Fort Getty was dedicated to her mother, Liza Roach will lay the foundation for another charitable circle. Dubbed the Jamestown Women’s Giving Circle, the charity mimics a trend that has exploded across the United States this past decade — participatory philanthropy.

The concept, Roach said, is for members of the giving circle to donate a set amount. After every cent is pooled together, there will be a comprehensive vetting process followed by the election of a recipient. At least a dozen circles already are active across the state.

Because the concept is designed to negate administrative costs, including the inflated salaries of executive directors, donations reach their destination before the money is funneled in different directions, she said.

“A lot of times you’ll see charities that will use an extreme amount of money towards administrative purposes, which is financially not a good idea when you’re meeting a goal for needy people,” Roach said. “If 60 percent is going toward administration and publications, and only 40 percent is going toward direct need, that’s not a good way for a charity to work.”

Despite its name, membership is not limited to Jamestowners; any Rhode Island woman can join. “There’s no restriction so long as they’re willing to invest their money and their time,” she said.

Roach, a native Jamestowner who lives in East Greenwich, is a youth minister for the Roman Catholic diocese in Norwich, Conn. Her father, Nick, founded The Chemical Company in 1988 on Southwest Avenue, which will become the women’s headquarters. While the giving circle is a newcomer into the building, the business is no stranger to charity. The Roaches sponsor an endowment through the Rhode Island Foundation and also provide scholarships for chemistry majors at the state’s community college.

“My whole life, I’ve really been entrenched in charity,” she said.

With the family connection to the Rhode Island Foundation, Roach began researching ways to give back to the community. That’s when she came across the idea. She applied for a grant in December from the Rhode Island Foundation as part of a pilot program for giving circles. The organization agreed to award six applicants a dollar-for-dollar matching grant for up to $5,000.

“I thought this was an exceptional way to introduce giving in a new and efficient way,” she said. “If I get 10 people to give $100, it’s $1,000. Then I have a one-for-one grant and that’s now $2,000. It’s much more of an impact than my $100.”

Each member of the Jamestown Women’s Giving Circle is expected to donate $250 to the pool, in either a lump sum or in six payments during the six scheduled meetings. In September, Roach said the members will decide which social issue they want to tackle, such as helping children or the homeless, and then they will research charities covering that topic. Despite her religious background, Roach said her giving circle will be a secular group.

The giving circle also includes an education aspect for its members. During the second meeting, there will be a crash course to explain how charities are managed and where the money goes.

Once the members learn how charities operate, the giving circle will narrow their selection to three organizations during their third meeting. Roach plans to invite representatives from these charities to the meetings for them to present their services. After hearing from the charities, the members will choose a single recipient. Once their money is donated, Roach hopes members are inspired to volunteer with a charity to which they were introduced.

“Not only do we invest our money, but we invest our time,” she said. “People are much more interested in giving their funds to places that they know will make a difference in the world around them. Not just to give $50 because someone sent them a card in the mail but because they intricately know these places. They know the people that are running it, they know what they do and they know financially how they work. They really know where the money is and what it’s going to.”

According to Roach, the island is the perfect place for this type of endeavor.

“We don’t get the social issues that someone who lives in Providence does,” she said. “Being able to have it here is very important.”

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