Fiona's circle of solidarity

Fiona Marsh has supported many charities and non-government organisations over the years, often unaware where her donations went and what her money achieved. As a McAuley Community Services for Women Catherine Circle member Fiona is watching with great interest the outcome of her three-year commitment.

Fiona recently joined other Catherine Circle members to vote on two projects that were up for funding. Though she supported both projects, she opted for the safe@home project, which is examining what is needed to make a home safe for a woman and child to return to after abuse. The project will have a significant impact for the women using McAuley Community Services for Women safe house and refuges and the sector as a whole.

Fortunately, an anonymous donor on the night agreed to fund the second project, which will help women who are homeless become financially independent through employment.

Fiona believes donors want to have more of a say in where their money goes and she is impressed with the approach taken by McAuley Community Services for Women in setting up the giving circle.

The Catherine Circle, which was launched this year, asks members, as individuals or as a group, to commit to donating $1000 every year for three years.

Each year there will be an annual gathering of the Catherine Circle where McAuley Community Services for Women will introduce two high priority projects, which require funding. Catherine Circle members will vote by ballot for one of the projects. The project with the highest votes will be supported for the year.

“Being part of a giving circle gives members a sense of responsibility of the project. It certainly gives me a sense that my money is making a difference because I find out about the project along the way. Also, the projects have a finite period and there is an outcome that we will hear about,” Fiona said.

Fiona’s support for McAuley Community Services for Women is driven by her commitment to combat family violence. Some horrific murders in recent years have made her more aware of the prevalence of family violence and its affects on all involved, particularly the children.

The spotlight on family violence has galvansied a lot of people, including Fiona, who gathered with friends for a lunch to get the Catherine Circle off the ground. Since then many others have joined as individual members or got a group of friends to join as one member. Fiona intends using her networks to spread the word.

“The best way to try and get people involved is to talk to you friends and people you work with and just ask them if they will be part of it.I am hoping to encourage my ‘mothers group’, an awesome group of women who have been together for 20 years, to join the Catherine Circle,” she said. “If you join as a group then the $1000 annual commitment is divided amongst those in the group.”

“Adding people to the Catherine Circle gives you a sense of solidarity with the women affected by family violence. Luckily, I have not experienced family violence, but being part of the giving circle means I can support the women who are living through it now.”

Fiona was thrilled this year that her family, husband Chris, daughter Georgia, 20, and son Lachy, 16, celebrated her 50th birthday with a donation to McAuley Community Services for Women.

“This gesture really made my birthday so special because my family understood how important these issues are to me. I guess the talking we do at home has had an impact on my children and they get it.”