COVID-19 will drastically affect nonprofits and individuals across the country, today and in the weeks and months to come. As social distancing becomes a daily reality and so many are feeling the direct impact of COVID-19, people are looking for resources and ways to give back and help but may not know how. A giving circle is a powerful, people-centered way to both create community and support those hardest hit — showing the strength and resilience of communities across the country. Here are seven ideas for how giving circles and collective giving groups can adapt their work to build community and support those hardest hit by this pandemic.
1. Crowdsource resources, ideas and organizations
New resources, guides, funds, and organizations are popping up every day to support those in need in light of COVID-19 that can help guide your circle’s next donation cycle.
EPIP (Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy) LA’s giving circle leaders Ilir Lita and Piper Kamins sent out a rapid response email to their giving circle members on Tuesday morning with a link to a crowd-sourced Google Doc for everyone to populate.
Since our giving circle has about 60+ members from different sectors (philanthropy, non-profit, government, private) we wanted to share it with them as a way to crowd-source ideas, referrals, etc. It’s now taken on a life of its own and it seems everyone is committed to using it in a powerful and purposeful way to help others, which is the driving force and mission of our giving circle.
2. Focus on vulnerable populations and past grantees
Your giving circle may currently focus on a specific issue area or audiences, but consider those most at-risk in your giving focus over the coming weeks and months. Here is a Twitter crowd-sourced brainstorm of vulnerable frontline populations.
Seiji Carpenter, part of Radfund in NYC, explains:
Think about the prisoners, seniors, immunocompromised, undocumented, uninsured, caregivers, and everyone whose work is going to be hit (small businesses, retail, hospitality, artists, and so many more). Does your circle help support groups that help these populations? If not, what groups can you support that do? The local groups working with vulnerable populations are going to be in better positions to help than anyone else. Talk to groups you’ve supported before and just let them know that you want to help and are available as they identify needs.
3. Support people in your circle
When it comes down to it, giving circles are just PEOPLE. Remember to check-in with your members to see what basic human needs exist within your circle and consider how to support them during the pandemic.
Marsha Morgan, Board Chair of Community Investment Network, shares how CIN is supporting and valuing members within their circles:
The needs of marginalized communities will only increase and escalate over time, and the impact and challenge to Black and Brown communities will be immeasurable. Traditional philanthropy may focus only on organizations that are doing good work. However, we realize that philanthropy in Black and Brown communities has modeled sharing time, talent, and treasure to not only meet the needs of organizations but also individuals directly. CIN is supporting individual members of our giving circles that have been financially impacted — as so many are small business owners and entrepreneurs, and we will provide mini-grants, emergency aid, and matching funds to the communities we serve in partnership with our members.
4. Practice trust-based philanthropy
From providing general operating funds, to streamlining or eliminating grant proposals and reporting needs, trust-based philanthropy best practices are especially important right now in this moment of crisis.
The Trust-Based Philanthropy Project has a set of principles to follow and guidelines on how to best achieve them.
Hali Lee, leader of the Asian Women Giving Circle, shared:
Philanthropy ought to prioritize and listen to leaders and people on the ground. This is at once radical and super sensible. While tension can sometimes arise between getting resources out the door quickly and strategically AND bringing individual donors along a learning journey, but in times of crisis especially, we must lean towards expediency and trusting the on-the-ground experts.
5. Think creatively about how to make more resources available
Beyond direct checks, what other ways can your circle support the needs of your grantees? Use the collective wisdom of your group to brainstorm creative solutions.
1. Purchase an online video conference license so your organization can host meetings with grantees and member meetings. Offer to share the license with grantees that don’t have funds to purchase their own technology solutions.
2. For grantees receiving grants in multi-year installments, consider asking them if they need for you to accelerate payments.
3. For grantees receiving grants for restricted purposes, such as specific projects, consider releasing the restrictions so funds can be used for general operating support.
6. Reconsider how to run your next grant cycle
Like many others, your circle may have a consistent pattern of meeting and granting. During this unique time of need, consider how to gather together sooner, virtually, or inspire above and beyond giving.
Traci Richards, President and Co-Founder of 100 Who Care Alliance, shares this:
We live in an age where technology allows us to continue to meet while practicing social distancing. While I have heard that a couple groups outright canceled their spring meetings and are requiring members to write checks to their favorite nonprofit instead, most all of the 100 Who Care giving circles will meet as planned either virtually by video, phone conference, or over email (where members are asked to choose between three pre-selected nonprofits that are specifically working to support COVID-19 efforts). Donating to local nonprofits — such as local food pantries, homeless shelters, or Meals on Wheels — is more important than ever as history shows donor’s discretionary dollars don’t increase but rather get redirected towards national relief organizations, thereby hurting the smaller nonprofits working closest to the ground.
7. Host a virtual pop-up giving circle
Liz Fisher, CEO of Amplifier, a network of Jewish-values inspired giving circles and her team created a new resource for how to host a virtual pop-up giving circle.
At times like these, giving circles help our dollars go further and combat social isolation. Community needs are growing and we hope virtual tools like this will encourage people to continue to give and to connect with one another.
Philanthropy Together is an initiative to scale and strengthen giving circles across the country in an effort to diversify and democratize philanthropy. Many thanks to 100 Who Care Alliance, Amplifier, Asian Women Giving Circle, Community Investment Network, EPIP LA, Philanos, Radfund, and Washington Women’s Foundation for sharing ideas and resources at this time.
Have an idea to add or example of what your circle or network is doing? Reach out and we’ll add to this list or on Twitter: firstname.lastname@example.org
Isis Krause (she/her) is the founder of Knead Partners, a social impact strategy firm supporting ambitious impact-focused initiatives and organizations. Isis has developed dozens of strategic plans, facilitated close to 200 strategy workshops and retreats, and led the visioning and implementation of award-winning programs and campaigns for nonprofits, Fortune 100 brands, and network-driven initiatives across the country. Previously she was the co-founder of First Seating, helping organizations bring life back into the workplace through creative team retreats, and was a lead strategist at GOODcorps, leading award-winning client engagements with a focus on equal parts impact and audience engagement. Her work has been profiled in Inside Philanthropy and has resulted in millions in funding for ambitious impact programs and orgs. Isis lives in Los Angeles, is a proud mama of two, and always seems to have a loaf of bread rising somewhere in the house, much to her family’s delight!