[Guest blog] Giving Circles are changing philanthropy - here’s how

[Guest blog] Giving Circles are changing philanthropy - here’s how

More than ever people are waking up to the realization that you don’t have to be of a certain demographic, background, income, or culture to be a philanthropist. Giving circles are a growing movement that is shifting the landscape of philanthropy—enabling everyday givers to amplify their community impact by joining with others. Over the past two decades, more than 150,000 people in the United States have engaged in giving circles, contributing more than $1.3 BILLION dollars to causes.

Giving circles promote more thoughtful, intentional, informed, and ethical giving, which are infinitely customizable—adaptable to givers’ diverse philanthropic interests, geographies, and giving levels. They have the potential to open the doors of philanthropy to millions of people.

Far beyond philanthropy, giving circles are multi-dimensional vehicles that create community, bridge divides, promote viewpoint diversity, and create opportunities for civic engagement. They provide a setting in which anyone—regardless of who they are or how much they have to give—can hone the skills to effectively participate in a robust and diverse democracy. 

What exactly is a giving circle? 🤨

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 do giving circles differ from one another? 🧩

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. 

Currently, there are more than 2,000 giving circles around the world supporting a wide range of causes, including:

♻️ 1% For the Planet Individual Member Giving Circle, a newly launched giving circle with members committed to helping communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change.

🎨 Vital Little Plans, an artist collective and giving circle which supports arts-driven and community-led creative, equitable, and vital plans for neighborhoods and communities.

🌈 LGBTQ+ Latinx Giving Circle, which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and comprised of LGBTQ+ identifying members who pool their resources to support local nonprofits working with the LGBTQ+ Latinx community. 

This tiny sample demonstrates the extraordinary diversity of the collective giving field and highlights giving circles’ unique abilities to directly impact the communities around them. 

Why are giving circles a great way to donate? ✨

Beyond “doing good” by supporting important issues or underfunded causes, we believe 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.

That's why we started Philanthropy Together; a new nonprofit, co-created by hundreds of giving circle and collective giving network leaders, with a mission to diversify and democratize philanthropy. Working with new and existing giving circles, we help newcomers launch their own giving circles, provide resources for existing giving circles, and unite and strengthen the collective giving movement. 

This sounds amazing! How can I get involved? 🙌

As a Verified Partner of Givebutter, Philanthropy Together is helping Changemakers just like you diversify and democratize philanthropy. If you're looking to get started, here's the first few steps we'd recommend:

1. Start your own giving circle! Meet fellow Changemakers and gain all the tools and tips needed to start a giving circle by joining Launchpad For You, a virtual training program for budding giving circle leaders.

2. Join an existing giving circle! To find a giving circle in your area, check out the first-ever global giving circle directory, where you can find local giving circles and points of contact.

3. Spread the word! The collective giving movement is growing exponentially, but we need your help to tell others about this incredible form of philanthropy.

Written By

Written by
Kyson Bunthuwong
Director of Development & Partnerships at Philanthropy Together.