What are giving circles?
Giving Circles are happening all over the place these days. Groups of people collectively pool their resources to make a joint contribution to a cause that reflects their shared values. Donors in giving circles "give more, give more strategically and are more engaged in their communities" according to research about giving circles in 2009. Giving circles are becoming popular with women, minorities and donors under 40 according to research by Jumpstart Labs in 2014. Some say giving circles are "rebuilding philanthropy from the ground up".
You can find giving circles that are informal, run like book groups or investment clubs, or quite formal, with bylaws and nonprofit status. They differ in the amount of funding people are asked to contribute, in what issues are being addressed, who can be involved, and how decisions are made. Some are quite small, others can be large. Some of the women's impact fund groups have more than 500 members.
A 2017 research study about collective giving says that giving circles have tripled since 2007 - largely powered by woman, and largely focused on local issues. Read the Executive Summary and learn about the ten key findings! A study published in April 2019 about the Catalist Network, which we are affiliated with, provides some great comparison information about how our colleagues are organized, how members are engaged and what are emerging issues as we all grow. A few factoids: group sizes range from 5-570 members; average annual awards made were $250,000; many live within community foundations or are indepenent 501-c-3’s; and member engagement is highest in new and mature groups.
In 2018 a new collective giving circle platform was launched. If you are interested in starting your own collective giving circle, with any number of people and donation amount, read this article in the Spring 2018 Nonprofit Quarterly about how to make it happen easily!
Learn more about giving circles
Here are a few resources to give you more information about giving circles.
“The Sweetness of Giving Circles” from Nonprofit Quarterly, March, 2019
“New Look at Giving Circles as Entry Points for Small Donors” from Nonprofit Quarterly, Dec 2018
"Growing Philanthropy through Giving Circles" from Baltimore Grantmakers Association
"Seven Paradigms on Collective Giving" from University of Pennsylvania's Peter Frumkin
"The Impact of Giving Together" by Eikenberry and Bearman
Research about giving patterns of men and women from the Women's Philanthropy Institute
Where to find women's giving circles
Women's Giving Network map of network with links to groups throughout the US
Local giving circles
Women Who Care sponsors quarterly get-togethers to select recipients for group contributions.
Social Justice Fund Northwest sponsors a unique inter-generational giving project in Portland.
Find out more about community-engaged philanthropy in Portland from the recent City Club panel
Let us know about other local giving circles and we will share information with our readers!
Start your own giving circle!
There are new online resources such as Growfund to help you track and manage collective giving with whatever group you organize, for whatever project or cause speaks to you. Here's an article about the rise of opportunities for organizing collective giving.