In 2018 a small group of professionals at Microsoft came together to discuss the idea of creating a Giving Circle among the Turkish-American community. They wanted to establish a collaborative effort in which they could work together, gather contributions, educate members about the power of collective philanthropy, and provide opportunities for hands-on involvement in awarding grants and making social investments. Seattle Giving Circle, a Fund of TPF, was formed with this mission in mind. Over the years, the circle has grown into a group where members share ideas and bond over similar interests. Their driving force is the same: using their good fortune to benefit thousands of others who are not as fortunate and establishing a habit of giving among Turkish-Americans.
Circle members have different motivations for joining. For some, it is a culture they have learned from their families. In many of their homes, they watched their parents and grandparents offer what they could, whether material or emotional support, to others in need. Irem Aydin always felt fortunate for the love and support she and her siblings received and the values they were taught. “My parents provided me with the roots and fundamental base to give more and be more open. Practicing love is very important, and they taught us to have a strong work ethic and drive. Personally, I believe working hard and giving go hand in hand. If you don’t have the work ethic and drive to do more, you can’t give. There is a strong bond between work ethic and giving, in my opinion.” But it was not until she moved to the U.S. for her master’s degree at Michigan State University that she learned the word “philanthropy” and how she can give back. Burcu Nemutlu has the same kind of upbringing, where her parents – both teachers – were very involved in charity events. As she watched them give back to the community and the students in need, she held onto the hope that she would, in turn, be able to give back and help others in the future. Her desires came true with her introduction to the Seattle Giving Circle.
Circle members’ drive to give back comes from their personal experiences. In her final year at MSU, Irem Aydin couldn’t secure a graduate assistantship role and faced financial hardship until she landed a scholarship after several applications. Since then, Irem knew she wanted to help others who have come to the U.S. with an assistantship or a scholarship. She notes, “sometimes those funds are not enough, and then you struggle to make ends meet and lose focus on your studies. I don’t want students to be deterred because of finances… I want them to have the support they need to rise up.” For Burcu Nemutlu, her desire to give back amplified once she became a mother. “I want to help the children who are less fortunate succeed and reach their goals in life.” The importance of education was always something Burcu was aware of. “My passion for giving is education, especially for girls education and girls in STEM. I would like to see more students, especially girls, complete their education. Perhaps, this is because my parents were teachers; that is even more important to me because I have seen what quality education can do for the development of a child.” Sehribani Oktay was also driven by her personal experience growing up. “The experience when you’re a kid is the most influential. Whatever you learn and are provided as a kid sets you up for your life. Coming from a low-income family, my life changed when I had success on an exam and was able to go to a better school. The connections I made changed my perspective and outlook for life.” And now, as a mother, she sees a chance to not only give these opportunities to her own children but to as many children as possible in Turkey. Microsoft’s giving culture definitely influenced many of the circle members. TPF’s open platform, combined with the encouraging philanthropic culture at Microsoft along with the matching gifts, turned Seattle Circle into a big success. “I am grateful to TPF for the guidance and support they provided during the partnership onboarding, which in turn made it possible for me to collect more with Seattle Circle’s match and invest in kids’ education in Turkey. TPF connects people to the causes that they care about and provides a great bridge that gives us the ability to give to areas that are meaningful for us back home in Turkey,” notes Burcu Nemutlu.
This network of eager philanthropists came together to give back to their homeland and built a philanthropic bond not only with each other but also with Turkish Philanthropy Funds. They aim to leverage collective resources to encourage philanthropy and community service among Turkish-Americans in Seattle. Many of the members came to know one another by working at Microsoft and asking where and how others give, which introduced them to TPF. Via the power of cooperative giving, members can pool their financial contributions to support meaningful and lasting solutions in Turkey. The group welcomes and encourages anyone to support the collective effort. Irem Aydin says, “TPF is open to different ideas. There are so many organizations to support, and I feel accepted with my ideas of where I want to support and how to go about it.” The community’s fabric is diverse, and the giving circle enables giving to various programs to drive solutions.