A look back
Three years ago, Philanthropy Together was launched amid the ambiguity and urgency of COVID-19, racial uprisings, and the promise of a new way of democratizing and diversifying philanthropy through the power of collective giving. Our mission and mandate was spearheaded by Amplifier, Community Investment Network, Latino Community Foundation, Philanos, Asian Women’s Giving Circle, and dozens of collective giving networks and leaders who came together to envision the future of collective giving and to discuss how they could continue to scale and strengthen this explosive field’s impact with a sustainable plan. Giving circles were growing in popularity and diversity of membership. We could envision a world full of passionate, empowered individuals giving collectively and intentionally to create the world they want to see.
Since those early days of 2020, the field has matured significantly, and we are beyond proud of the impact we’ve been able to make as a result of our collective efforts. Philanthropy Together has garnered 565+ million impressions for giving circles and collective giving in the media, trained 600+ new circle leaders, brought together thousands within the field for in-depth learning at We Give Summit (happening in May!), supported hundreds of groups in their journey to strengthen their commitment to equity, consistently convened networks and leaders to strengthen relationships and shared learning, and so much more. View our impact report to see the full picture.
Along the way, Braintrust: a committee of representatives from more than a dozen giving circle networks from around the world, has been trusted partners in catalyzing the giving circle field at-large. Most recently, we launched the 2023 Landscape Research of Collective Giving with the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy to see just how much this movement has grown in size, who is participating, how treasure, talent, testimony, and ties are being given, and which groups are receiving funding. It also includes the first-ever look at how membership within a collective giving group changes your civic engagement, level of giving, connection to community, and overall purpose. Please take the member and group survey to make sure your voice and story are heard!
At its core, collective giving is about people coming together for collective change. The 2016 Research mostly used “giving circle” as terminology, but over the past three years, we’ve become steeped in the many nuances of this thriving field. There are so many different models and distinct names for how communities are collaborating for change: SVP affiliates, Giving Projects, fundraising circles within nonprofits, flow funding circles, political giving circles, Wohnzimmerspende, Awesome Foundation chapters, donor networks that pool giving, collaborative funds, women’s collective giving (Philanos, Impact100, Women’s Funds, Womenades), groups creating belonging for people of color (CIN, LCF, AAPIP, to name a few), GivingTuesday Communities, alumni circles, time banks, faith-based collective giving (Amplifier, AMCF, to name a few), 100 Who Care chapters, Grapevines, youth collective giving (YouthRoots, Honeycomb, to name a few), ERG/company giving circles, peer-led investment circles, mutual aid societies, the list goes on…
This breadth of what collective, collaborative giving looks like shows two things:
- It works. Peer communities encourage greater giving (of all kinds), deeper education on issue areas, stronger connections, and better philanthropic practice. Community is the secret sauce.
- It’s the future of giving. Intractable systemic crises, of which our world is not in short supply, require an engaged citizenry and collective action to address issues at scale. All these models are innovating on how to do just that.
Moving forward, Philanthropy Together is thrilled to be expanding our work and audience across the entire landscape of collective giving—continuing our support of giving circles and also broadening our horizon to collective giving models of all shapes and sizes. Most notably, we are embarking on a new body of work to catalyze the field of collaborative funds.
Through an investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and entrepreneur Adam Pisoni, we are currently working to bring our knowledge and infrastructure support to the rapidly growing field of collaborative funds. Just as with giving circles, collaborative funds have seen a rapid rise over the past decade and yet aren’t deeply connected as a field.
“Collaboratives have charted a course that differs from traditional philanthropy. They tilt toward equity and justice, field and movement building, leaders of color, and, for some, power sharing,” share Alison Powel and Michael John in a recent Bridgespan report. Many focus on systems change and building fields and movements instead of traditional philanthropy focusing on individual issues or organizations. In particular, we are excited by the growth of community-led collaborative funds where participatory decision-making places decisions in the hands of proximate community leaders and often focus on issues of equity and specific underrepresented communities. These are currently moving smaller sums of funding but are ripe for scaled investment.
Currently, hundreds of collaborative funds are working mostly in parallel, each experimenting with different governing structures without the benefit of the hard-earned intelligence of fellow travelers in the space. The joyful triumphs of successful strategies and deep impact are not being amplified in deliberate and concerted ways so the field can learn from one another’s successes and failures. Opportunities for intelligent, impactful, and sustainable scale are not being leveraged due to lack of infrastructure, collaboration, and coordination.
Philanthropy Together aims to bridge the gap of communication and knowledge through community building, storytelling, convenings, training and resources, and tools for donors and advisors to better understand the landscape and increase their investment.
To guide this work, we are pulling together a Collaboratives Braintrust to co-create the strategy and set of support offerings—continuing our commitment to working in partnership with those leading on the ground. If you are part of a collaborative fund in any way and want to join us on this journey, we encourage you to reach out to chat. Together we can continue disrupting philanthropy through collective, collaborative giving.
The future is bright.