Giving Circle: Focus and Maximize Your Donations by Joining with Others:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
- Margaret Mead
What is a giving circle?
Giving circles are rapidly becoming a popular way for individuals to channel and amplify their philanthropic impulses. Giving circles can be small and informal, something like a neighborly potluck, with a few people pooling their money and giving it to a chosen charity; or they can be highly organized, require contributions of thousands of dollars and a commitment of many years.
Whether informal or highly organized, giving circles allow donors to leverage their assets by pooling their contributions to achieve a greater impact. Democratically arranged, giving circles provide donors equal voice in deciding where their contributions go. In the process, donors connect with one another and with their community.
Good reasons to start a giving circle
- Pooling money with others and focusing on a key issue can have a far greater impact than individual gifts.
- The collective wisdom and know-how of a group creates value and impact to charitable investments.
- Developing partnerships with a smaller number of charities can create a deeper level of involvement for donors and the nonprofits they support.
- It can be fun to be part of a group and fulfilling to contribute in such an innovative and insightful way.
Tips for organizing a giving circle
- There are a number of ways to set up a Giving Circle. Do some research (see sources below) to see the breadth of models and to help you decide how to set up your own.
- Determine your mission. What are your goals? Do you want to benefit local nonprofits or do you wish to go with an international thrust? What issues are you interested in? Will you support one or several?
- Decide how large your group should be and how it will be structured. Do you want a small group? Do you need committees? Will you hold events to raise funds? How much will you want your members to contribute? Will you include volunteer work among your activities? Can you exist as an informal group or do you want to become a 501(c)(3) organization?
- Decide where your group will put your money while you decide where you will donate it. Do you need a bank account? You may decide to have all the members write individual checks to the group you decide to fund. That alleviates the need for any separate account. Or, do you prefer a sponsor, such as a local foundation, to help you manage and distribute the funds?
- Do your research. Meet with those nonprofits you are interested in supporting to find out what they do, how they do it, if they seem efficient in how they spend their funds. You may ask for formal requests from groups that would like your donation; and, certainly, after you contribute you will want progress reports from the recipients.
Sources of more information on giving circles
- Money Well Spent - Giving Circles
- New Ventures In Philanthropy, Giving Together (a study of giving circles, 2005).
- Giving Circles Knowledge Center
- Ten Steps for Starting a Giving Circle--Minnesota Toolkit for Giving
- Giving Circles Network
- Growing Philanthropy Through Giving Circles: Lessons Learned from Start Up to Grantmaking - The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers
- Giving Circles in the News