When you hear the term “philanthropist,” what do you think? Most people picture big-budget donors like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett who provide capital for high-profile charitable projects.
This is one type of philanthropy, but not the only type. Greek playwright Aeschylus actually coined the word to mean “love of humanity.” So, a philanthropist is simply someone who gives to others. That giving can involve financial contributions – large or small – as well as donations of time.
This definition vastly increases who is and can be a philanthropist. Many “philanthropists” with a capital “P” are often rich, often white, often men, and often American. But if we expand our definition of the word, we also broaden our perception of philanthropists to encompass “a greater diversity of donors – including women, people of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, and donors of all wealth levels.”
If you’re not a big-budget donor, you still may wonder how your philanthropic contributions can make a difference. Here, we’ll discuss how collective giving can ensure donations of any size make a major impact.
Amplifying your philanthropy in a giving circle
Since 2007, giving circles, otherwise known as collective giving, in the United States have tripled in number<, involving more than 150,000 people who have donated more than $1.29 billion. At its most basic, a giving circle is a group of like-minded individuals coming together to pool time, dollars, voices, and connections. Usually, giving circles form around common issues or shared values. Giving circles also meet regularly to decide which organizations, projects, individuals, or families they want to support. Often, the group decides where to give their collective money after rounds of discussion and voting.
The power of collective giving
Giving circles can validate groups who often feel excluded from participating in philanthropic endeavors. About 60 percent of giving circles in the United States are identity-based, with the most common affinity being women’s groups. Because of these shifting demographics of funders, more diverse nonprofits are receiving much-needed support. Many giving circles focus on funding nonprofits in their local communities. Often, these groups do not have high profiles that would attract bigger-budget donors. Thus, giving circle members, or “philanthropists”, are spurring community-oriented change through charitable involvement while also building trust-based philanthropy and forging deeper civic ties within communities.
Be a philanthropist by joining the giving circle movement
Start or join a giving circle and you can ensure that the dollars you contribute go further. Consider getting started by calling together your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors and discussing issues in your community. Giving circles are grassroots giving; many circles are founded and meet in informal settings, such as a member’s living room. If you need assistance, check out the resources Philanthropy Together has available for starting a giving circle.
Not sure if you want to start a giving circle? No problem! You can find a virtual giving circle or one near you. Philanthropy Together is currently working with Grapevine to launch the first-ever searchable directory of giving circlesin. In the meantime, you can learn more about more than a dozen giving circle networks representing diverse affinity groups.
Giving circles demonstrate how philanthropy can be accessible to everyone. Find your place as a philanthropic contributor to your community today.