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Study Proves the Worth of Giving Circles

Giving Circles are Hot, for Donors Who Want Involvement with Their Causes


A study has revealed that donors, who give through giving circles, give more, give more strategically, and are generally more knowledgeable about the nonprofit organizations they support and the problems in their communities.

The study, supported by the University Of Nebraska at Omaha, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, is one of the first to examine how giving circles impact their members' giving and civic engagement. It is based on a survey of 587 current and past giving circle members plus a control group. The study included interviews and participant observations.

The findings of the study include:

  • Giving Circle members say they give more and to a greater number of organizations than other donors. They also feel that they are more strategic in their giving.
  • Giving circles seem to increase the knowledge of their members in regard to philanthropy in general, specific nonprofits, and their own community needs.
  • Members of giving circles are more likely to give to groups that serve women, minority groups, the arts, culture and ethnic awareness. They are less likely to give to federated funds (such as the United Way), and to religious organizations.
  • Giving circle members are more highly engaged in their communities. They seem to volunteer more, and the most highly engaged members say they have increased their participation in changing government policies.

Nonprofits, the study found, benefit from giving circle funding since those circles generally provide support to the organizations right in their own communities.

The researchers suggest that giving circles may be especially important in tough economic situations because members can leverage their own donations with others so they can have a greater impact on the causes they care about.


More information about the study and how to start a giving circle can be found at the Giving Circles Knowledge Center.

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