Redefining Generosity Among Young Adults:
The Young-Givers Circle
When Jon and Chelsea DeVries first learned about Young-Givers Circle a group of young Chattanooga professionals committed to pooling their resources to give with greater impact, the timing seemed providential.
At the time, they had recently paid off their student loans and moved with their three kids into a new house. Financially, they were thriving. But something seemed off to the DeVries.
“We had a realization, an eyes-wide-open moment: unless you make an intentional decision to change your perspective, there’s always going to be the next house or the next car,” said Jon.
“We realized it would be easy to get caught up in, ‘Well, we’re just going to aim at the next bigger, nicer, newer thing.’ And we didn’t want that to be the story of what we were doing with our money. So we were having that conversation at the same time the idea for the Giving Circle came along.”
“We didn’t want that to be the story of what we were doing with our money.”
A Generous Vision
As a student at Covenant College, Jon says he was instilled with the belief that caring about your community is part of what it means to be an adult, a citizen, and a Christian. So when he and Chelsea began their careers after college (he in banking, she in insurance), they looked for ways to get involved in their community.
Jon eventually landed in a young professionals service group through the United Way. While serving in the group, Jon learned about a new local initiative being launched by The Generosity Trust (TGT). He attended a Lunch & Learn where TGT presented the vision for a new kind of Giving Circle, a group of people united by a common vision who pool their funds to give with greater impact.
This Giving Circle would be made up of young professionals eager to redefine generosity among a new generation and meet the needs of others in Chattanooga. Jon remembers “loving the idea” and joined the founding group when it officially launched in the fall of 2019.
Before she was married, Chelsea says she never really gave a lot of thought to money management or budgeting. “Generosity was never really on my radar,” she said. Growing up, her family struggled financially and was never in a position to give away money. So when Chelsea started hearing about the Young-Givers Circle through Jon, she was intrigued.
“I wouldn’t say I was sold on it right away,” said Chelsea. “But once you start giving money away, it’s really fun to help local people in that way—to make an impact you can actually see.”
How the Young-Givers Circle works
At its core, the Young-Givers Circle is simple. Members of the group commit to giving at least $50 a month, and all funds are pooled in a single Donor-Advised Fund set up by The Generosity Trust.
The group then receives grant applications from nonprofits and ministries that are serving Chattanooga residents. At their quarterly meetings, the group reviews those applications and takes a vote. Whichever organization receives the most votes gets the grant for that quarter.
In the beginning, the Young-Givers Circle had enough monthly supporters to give away $3,000 a quarter. As the group has grown to over 30 monthly givers, their quarterly giving now has reached $4,000 – that amount will be increased as the membership grows.
Over the past two years, the group has given thirteen different grants to various organizations and ministries around Chattanooga, including Choices Chattanooga (a pregnancy resource center), the Momentum Network (a nonprofit serving single moms), Trousdale School (a school serving adults with intellectual disabilities), Restore 634 (a transition home for formerly incarcerated women), and Welcome Home of Chattanooga (a community of hope that offers compassionate end-of -life care for those in need).
Learning to Live a Life of Generosity
Aside from getting the opportunity to be a part of what God is doing in Chattanooga, Jon says that participating in the Young-Givers Circle has made him and Chelsea, as individuals, more attuned to the needs of those around them and more generous in their responses.
“Because we’re actively involved in a community that’s focused on generosity, we’ve become more attuned to the needs of others in our lives. My first reaction to seeing a friend or a family member with an unexpected medical bill didn’t use to be, ‘We can meet that need and bless this person.’ Now, we’re much more inclined to say, ‘We can pay for that for you.’”
Chelsea said learning to see themselves as conduits through which God’s resources (not theirs) are being redirected to those in need is both a humbling and exciting opportunity. It’s lessons like these that have made being a part of the Young-Givers Circle so life-changing for the DeVries.
“Learning those lessons and viewing things from a lifestyle of generosity has really been the biggest impact for us in getting involved with this giving circle,” said Jon.
To learn about other Giving Circles from TGT, visit thegenerositytrust.org/local-initiatives.
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