More so than any crisis of the 21st century, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the world’s sense of structure and reliability. But at the same time, it has also offered new opportunities for collective giving and community generosity.
Recent studies show that generosity — shown through philanthropy, volunteerism, or simple kindness to others — can be directly tied to longevity and good health. And when you add the collaborative element inherent in the giving circle model, you create a form of generosity that is as good for your physical and mental health as it is for your community.
Generosity is good for you.
Simply put, generosity is as beneficial to your health as exercise and a balanced diet. The University of Michigan published a 2003 study linking the practice of generosity to extended lifespan and improved mental and physical health.
We give because we care.
At its heart, generosity is about caring for others. This means that giving offers us an opportunity to get out of our own heads, stop focusing on ourselves as the troubled heroes of our own soap operas, and make someone else’s day. When we give, we are able to ignore the criticism, self-doubt, and uncertainty that shape so many of our day-to-day decisions. Instead, we feel that we are a true part of the community and connected to others.
The benefits of generosity are immeasurable — and they have no upward limit.
There are only 24 hours in the day, so there are only so many trips we can take to the gym or healthy meals we can prep. But on the other hand, generosity comes with no measure. We can give and give, whether with our time, our dollars, or our empathy. It doesn’t matter if we don’t have much money to give to a cause — what matters is that we see the direct impact of our own generosity, and we reap the rewards of helping others. And this is where giving circles come in handy…
Giving circles expand the impact of philanthropic dollars far beyond an individual’s contribution.
Traditional giving circle models offer membership for a set annual fee, but there is a rising prevalence of income-based circles that offer a “pay what you can” model. One example is Radfund in New York City, where giving circle members give 1% of their income. There are also more and more circles appearing where more affluent members of the circle “sponsor” another member, to make it possible for everyone to participate and have a voice in the giving process without committing more than they can reasonably contribute. This way, we can all feel the benefits of generosity without the guilt of “not giving enough.” There’s no such thing as giving “enough” when we all give together.
Giving circles are outlets for generosity AND human connection.
More than the simple financial aspects of taking part in a giving circle, circle membership offers unique opportunities to connect and collaborate with your community. By nature, giving circles come with a healthy dose of human connection: when we join a circle, we take part in the voting process, we meet with potential grantees, and we see the direct impacts of our grants on organizations in our communities. The trust-based methodology of this form of giving creates real and lasting relationships between circles and their grantee partners. And this communication cycle creates new opportunities for social change in the future.
By taking part in a giving circle, you are being generous to yourself and to others.
The biggest takeaway of the relationship between generosity and health is that joining a giving circle is the best way to be generous to yourself AND to your community. A single donation offers the feel-good power of bringing generosity into your day, but working within a group of like-minded individuals gives you all the goodness of generosity paired with the lasting impact, true friendships, trust, and quality relationships that we can only find within a collaborative philanthropy structure.
At Philanthropy Together, we believe in the power of generosity — and the power of giving circles. The more we give, the more we communicate, and the more we work together, the more we can do to create a gender equal future. Join the movement! Get connected by joining our email list to receive the latest news and stories on giving circles.
Maggie May is a small business owner, author, and story-centric content strategist within the nonprofit sector. Maggie is the Founder and Executive Director of the agency Get Mighty Creative, as well as a co-founder and the Director of Operations for The Undercard Collective, a giving circle focused on representation in music and the arts. She is a Maryland transplant by way of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ireland, and most recently Salt Lake City, Utah. She has a passion for finding stories and telling them the way they're meant to be told.