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Women put startup savvy to work for charity

SheGives raises $235,000 in 5 month for 8 Boston-area nonprofit organizations

Kirstan Barnett, a hedge fund partner, founded SheGives.

SLY Photography

Kirstan Barnett, a hedge fund partner, founded SheGives.

Some of Boston’s most successful women in technology and business are banding together to support local nonprofits — with a funding model typically used for startups.

The group, SheGives, has created a fund much as angel or venture investors do, pooling contributions from friends and other successful women and directing the money to nonprofit organizations with social missions,

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So far, SheGives has raised $235,000 in five months and will contribute to eight nonprofits.

“You’re getting a different kind of return,” said Kirstan Barnett, a partner at a Boston hedge fund who founded SheGives last year.

“It’s extraordinarily powerful to feel like you are contributing to organizations and people who are really effective at making change in the areas you care about.”

Barnett said the idea resonated with many busy professional women who are looking to give more to charitable organizations but don’t have the time to seek out and vet worthy nonprofits. SheGives performs due diligence and presents a slate of organizations to its membership, which includes about 100 women.

Members must agree to contribute $1,000 to $2,500 annually and make a two-year commitment. They can also contribute additional funds.

Among the eight groups that SheGives plans to help support this year are Lovin’ Spoonfuls, which distributes perishable food to the needy that would otherwise be thrown away by restaurants and grocery stores; Raw Art Works, an art therapy program; College Bound Dorchester, which helps prepare high school students for college; and Science Club for Girls, which provides free science and engineering programs.

SheGives expects to raise another fund next year.

In many ways, the approach is similar to that of traditional giving circles, in which friends band together to find and fund nonprofits.

Many of those groups were also started by women as both charitable and social organizations.

SheGives also has a social element and became a women-only group more by happenstance. The original group started with Barnett and several friends and spread quickly.

It includes such successful businesswomen as Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery, Jennifer Lum, a technology entrepreneur, and Katie Rae, managing director of the startup accelerator program Techstars Boston.

“This is a way we can have a big impact together,” said Rae, who is also an angel investor in startups. “I know I’m giving into organizations that have the kind of impact that I want to have in the world.”

Michael B. Farrell
can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.
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