Deborah A. Witte is a 2012 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

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Women have played an essential role in the development of philanthropy in the United States. While their giving behavior and financial contributions have been studied extensively, other aspects of their philanthropy-namely leadership-have not been documented as completely. The giving circle-a new trend within philanthropy where groups of individuals pool their money, and through educating themselves about issues in their community, decide together where to award their funds-provides an ideal case for this study, as the majority of giving circle members are women. In order to gain a better understanding of women's leadership, focus groups were conducted with more than 35 members of six giving circles. This study asks the questions: What meaning, understanding, or insights about women's philanthropic leadership can be derived from the experiences and perceptions articulated by members of giving circles? What definitions, models, or new articulations of leadership can be discerned? and What are the implication of the stories of leadership that members tell for the formation, growth, and sustainability of giving circles? A multimethod analysis of the focus groups reveals that these women identify leadership in three primary ways: leading through relationships; leading with a focus on impact and change; and leading to create civic capacity. It is the third frame-leading to create civic capacity-that holds the most promise for an expanded understanding and a clearer articulation of women's leadership in philanthropy. The electronic version of this Dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center,