There were sparks in the air before the first round of speed dating was over. By the end of the night, they were going home together.

For Philip Hall, that’s what his first pop-up giving circle felt like—a mad rush of love at first sight with a new way of giving while speed dating with nonprofits.

Philip, who also manages a popular blog, took part in his first pop-up giving circle with his husband, Jonathan Kurshan, and 19 other couples while they were on their Honeymoon Israel trip from the SF Bay Area in February 2017. Giving circles exist to allow individuals, couples, families or anyone interested to join their philanthropic efforts with others to pool their financial resources and make a greater impact for nonprofit organizations.

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Between relaxing on the beach and Jeep tours through the hills of Galilee, Philip and his peers participated in an activity in collaboration with Keren Baktana, a network of giving circles based in Israel. As part of the pop-up giving circle exercise, the participating couples heard from representatives from three (3) local Israeli nonprofits who were each vying for the financial support that would be a result of the Honeymoon Israel pop-up giving circle.

After hearing from all the organizations, the group had trouble selecting only one as all of the causes were incredibly worthy. The group ultimately decided to hold a silent auction to raise additional funds and allocate resources to their second choice organization as well. Coming together as a community to discuss their philanthropic values and make an impact on an Israeli nonprofit in need was a profoundly meaningful experience for the trip participants. In that moment, Philip decided that he needed to take this experience, and the idea of creating a giving circle, back to San Francisco with him.

One month following the trip, Philip met Yuning Pathman, another Honeymoon Israel SF Bay Area participant who also experienced a pop-up giving circle activity on her December 2016 trip. The experience fundamentally shifted the way she views giving—now she views it as a communal, collaborative and value-driven process that she and her husband, Jeff, strive to weave into the fabric of their family’s practices and identity.

Philip and Yuning were not alone in feeling connected to the process of giving as a community. Armed with the communal values discovered on the trip and the experience from their pop-up giving circles, Philip, Yuning and their spouses joined 13 other couples from the Honeymoon Israel SF Bay Area community to form a city-wide giving circle. Based on their shared experience with Honeymoon Israel, this new team set out to make a difference together at home.

Honeymoon Israel partnered with Amplifier to host a training for Honeymoon Israel past participants who were interested in starting their own giving circles at home. With Amplifier’s training and guidance, Philip, Yuning and others launched their first SF Bay Area giving circle.

As a result of meetings and discussions, the giving circle allocated approximately $3,000 to Clinic by the Bay, an organization that provides services to low-income working communities in San Francisco and the Peninsula who can't afford health care.

While the impact of this allocation is invaluable to the organization, it was the actual grant-making process that made a lasting impact on the giving circle participants. Researching different organizations allowed the team to get to know one another. Members felt more connected to the missions of the local organizations and more passionate about advocating for where the collective contribution should be allocated. Because of this, the team was able to have meaningful conversations about their values, allowing them to form deeper relationships with a group of strangers. The giving circle came together because of a common desire to give back, but through the process, they all gained new friends and expanded their circle of support.

For their second grant-making cycle, the team is splitting into two groups to accommodate high interest levels and geographic constraints. Yuning and her husband will captain the next cycle in San Jose, while Philip and his husband will continue to lead in San Francisco. Their intention is to establish a system and structure that will allow for rotating captains as more couples are welcomed into the SF Bay Area Honeymoon Israel community.

What started as a memorable experience on a Honeymoon Israel trip has evolved into an ongoing tikkun olam (repairing the world) connection for couples in the SF Bay Area. This is what Honeymoon Israel is all about.

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