What is a Giving Circle?
Whether you’re familiar with collective giving or not, you’ve probably heard the buzzword, “giving circle.” So, what is a giving circle?
Essentially, a giving circle is a collaborative approach to philanthropy that maximizes group donations. In giving circles, people with common interests, concerns or backgrounds come together to support organizations, causes or issues that matter to them. It’s a form of participatory philanthropy that is powered by the people who contribute.
How Giving Circles Differ
Giving circles come in all shapes and sizes with countless different ways of operating. Members come together and intentionally develop the group’s culture, requirements, and preferences. With complete flexibility, these parameters include how often they meet and how many organizations they’ll give to.
Giving circles can be formed by friends, family, community members or coworkers making pooled donations of any amount. More formal giving circles tend to have more structure, usually, with minimum donation requirements, a vetting process and voting systems. Others are much more informal. Members don’t have a required donation amount, and, instead of grants being issued, individual checks are collected and sent to an organization as a lump sum.
Why Giving Circles Can be a Better Way to Donate
Beyond “doing good” by supporting important issues or underfunded causes, giving circles promote philanthropic synergy, the feeling of making a significant impact, collective wisdom, networking opportunities, social connections with like-minded individuals, informed decision-making, and puts you in touch, on a deeper level, of what’s going on in your community.
Giving circles are about civic action and proactive change, not charity. Collective giving empowers people of any background, at any stage in their life to unleash the power within their communities.
The History and Profile of Giving Circles
Though giving circles have been on the rise — growing from 50 in 1995 to 2,000 as of 2020, tripling between 2007 and 2016 — documented giving circles are hundreds of years old. Collective giving is not new, and is a model that spans the globe and goes by many names, from “susu” in West Africa to “tanda” in Mexico. Giving circles are widespread and have brought together friends, neighbors and diverse communities for decades.
The study conducted by the Collective Giving Resource Group revealed that 50 percent of giving circles are made of women-only, and nearly 50 percent are people under 40. It’s reported that a growing number of giving circles are affinity-based, and popular among people of color with those of African, Asian and Hispanic heritage starting giving circles at almost double the rate of non-Jewish Whites.
American giving circles are reported to have engaged more than 150,000 people with contributions of nearly $1.3 billion dollars, historically.
More than ever people are waking up to the realization that you don’t have to be of a certain demographic, income or culture to be a philanthropist.
7 Reasons Why You’ll Want to Start Your Own Giving Circle
While the positive impact giving circles have are immensely evident, here are seven reasons why the benefits of starting your own giving circle are undeniable:
- It’s Engaging and Exciting – the power of giving and being directly involved with your investments makes this endeavor a fun and rewarding one
- It’s Empowering – you feel a part of something bigger than yourself for the betterment of the community while leveraging you donation
- It’s People-powered – with no barriers to entry, the joy of giving circles is accessible to anyone, at any class, race or age
- It’s Communal – you’ll build meaningful relationships with each other as positive-change agents
- It’s Collaborative – members call the shots using a democratic process; from how the giving circle will operate to strategies for donating how much and to what entity
- It’s Educational – you’ll discover hidden gems and gain profound insights into communities and causes you research and fund
- It’s Proactive – collecting pooled funds regularly enables giving circles to respond quickly to urgent requests, important needs or impeding crises
Participating in a giving circle not only empowers you and provides purpose as you grow personally and professionally, but also provides a sense of collective fulfillment as the benefits radiate through everyone who is part of the giving circle journey.
To learn more about how to start your own or join an existing giving circle, sign up for our email list and stay connected to the latest happenings in the giving circle field.
Ilyasah N Shabazz
For more than a decade, Ilyasah has worked with nonprofits to help them grow their audience by telling impactful stories, implementing strategic plans, and streamlining digital communications. A proud New Yorker, Ilyasah now lives in Greensboro, NC.