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Women drawn to “hands-on” charitable giving

Spark members attend a networking event at Play Food & Wine.
Spark members attend a networking event at Play Food & Wine.

When it comes to charitable giving, more and more, donors want to know where their money is going and how it will make an impact. Research shows that women, in particular, are interested in being actively involved in the giving process, so they can feel a connection to the cause they are supporting, and better understand the lives that are changed by their generosity.

Enter: Giving circles – a form of collective philanthropy that has grown in recent years, especially among women. Giving circles bring donors together to pool their resources and invest in areas they care deeply about. 

Spark, a United Way-led initiative, follows this style of philanthropy.

Spark brings community-minded women together to connect, invest, collaborate and initiate change in Ottawa. Spark members invest in the sparkFund, and invite proposals from community leaders for initiatives to support. Together, spark members then review the proposals and vote on how to distribute funds.

“It’s rewarding to see the kind of difference we can make when we work together,” said Jane Bachynski, spark Chair and Founder. “Through spark, I’ve been able to meet a great group of women and work with them to make our community a better place.” 

Spark members, many of whom are seen as leaders in the community, have regular member meetings and networking events.

Since 2014, the sparkFund has raised over $100,000 and supported resident-led projects that benefit women, their families, and their neighbours. These projects work to increase social interaction, reduce isolation, and improve community safety in Ottawa’s at-risk neighbourhoods. The community of Ashgrove, for example, received a grant to build the necessary skills and tools to grow and maintain a community garden—beautifying the neighbourhood and increasing access to fresh produce.

Together, members are empowering women to become leaders and spark change in their community. Learn more about becoming a member at