The Power of Giving Circles

by Roger Craver

A wise fundraiser constantly searches for new approaches.

“New” in terms of sources and approaches to giving beyond the conventional landscape on which most fundraisers graze.

I write to sharpen your focus on the growing importance of the giving circle when it comes to diversifying and democratizing philanthropy.

According to Philanthropy Together, there are 2,000+ giving circles in the U.S. involving approximately 150,000 donors who have contributed $1.29 billion.

You’ll find a treasure trove of info on giving circles when you visit the following links to Philanthropy Together’s website:

Learn more about giving circles >

Giving circles enable regular folks to pool their contributions, thus amplifying the power of individual dollars. They’ve proven to be one of the most effective ways to turn smaller gift dollars into a powerful force for community change.

Over the years, we’ve noted the importance of paying attention to the potential of giving circles. As far back as 12 years ago, in 700+Women = $170,000, we highlighted the promise of giving circles—which, at that time, were mostly women of the non-ultrarich variety joining together to grow some impressive giving power.

We raised it again in The Insanity and Stupidity of Ignoring and Offending Women, in which we noted that women make up 70% of the giving circles in the U.S.—a billion-dollar-plus bloc of money given mainly to local and community causes.

I was especially delighted with the announcement that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation was making a $1 million grant to strengthen and scale the giving circle movement as part of the foundation’s efforts to further racial equity and social justice efforts. The grant goes to a fascinating organization that is only a bit over one-year-old—Philanthropy Together, which was launched in April 2020.

According to Philanthropy Together’s Executive Director Sara Lomelin, “[the Kellogg Foundation grant] will advance Philanthropy Together’s work to strengthen the giving circle movement by equipping everyday givers with the resources, research, and training needed to align their grantmaking with equitable and social justice values and practices.”

For those who want to dig into a better understanding of or even participate in the giving circle movement, here are the services that Philanthropy Together offers to help democratize and diversify philanthropy through collective giving:

Launchpad: Philanthropy Together hosts Launchpad, a global giving circle incubator that trains people to start their own giving circles and has already trained 200+ leaders.

Racial Equity Community of Practice: To support existing giving circles, Philanthropy Together hosts Communities of Practice—a global network where giving circle leaders connect, train, and exchange best practices. Its Racial Equity Community of Practice launched in July 2020 as a 6-month program in partnership with Community Investment Network (CIN) and Community Build Ventures. This fall, the Community of Practice will offer a suite of new trainings and resources for participants to embed racial equity within their culture, leadership, grantmaking, and connection to community.

Social Justice Giving Circle Project: Philanthropy Together is developing the Social Justice Giving Circle Project (SJGCP)—a community and programmatic series for existing and new giving circles rooted in social justice values to strengthen their work and be accountable to social justice movements.

We Give Summit: This past May, Philanthropy Together hosted its inaugural We Give Summit, the first-ever field-wide convening of “every day” philanthropists engaged in communal giving, throughout the month—during which more than 1,000 giving circle members across 250 giving circles, as well as supporters and leaders, gathered for the very first time.

If you believe—and I sure hope you do—that philanthropy in a diverse and changing society must be far more than contributions of big sums of money by rich white guys, then I urge you to learn more about and be inspired by the giving circle movement.

What’s your experience with Giving Circles? We welcome hearing your view – lease your comments on the blog.

Notify of
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

Why Donors Stop Giving to You 

As year-end giving is now upon us, discovering why donors stop giving will provide you a keen understanding of what you need to improve on to get higher fundraising returns.

A new Bank of America report found that 28% of wealthy donors stop giving to a nonprofit that they supported in the previous year.

Read More »

What’s New in Year-End Giving?

Three new realities distinguish 2021 year-end giving. Engaging these new realities can significantly increase your year-end giving drive. They are…. You can now add a “donate” button to your Zoom events. Donor-advised funds have grown to gargantuan levels. Engaging giving circles should be a part of your strategy. While the fundamentals of year-end giving still apply, and I describe them in great detail here, 2021 also brings us three unique approaches for you to capitalize on, literally. Zoom Donate Button The new Zoom donate button is similar to Facebook’s donate button—but with a key difference. If donors give their permission,

Read More »

Donor Advised Funds: 7 Myths Debunked

By Al Cantor November marks the tenth anniversary of Professor Ray Madoff’s New York Times op-ed calling for new rules that would accelerate grantmaking from donor-advised funds. Over the years since, as the amount of money in donor-advised funds has grown from $25 billion to $142 billion, the DAF industry has pushed back strongly against Madoff and other reformers, relying on a familiar set of arguments to justify the status quo. These assertions have long rung hollow. Now, thanks to research that has come to light in the last few months, it’s increasingly evident that the talking points of the DAF industry are utterly

Read More »

August is Make-a-Will Month

Baby Boomers will pass on more than $30 trillion in wealth to the next generation over the ensuing 25 years — and they are deciding right now who to leave their estates to. Further, the Coronavirus pandemic has stimulated a rapid rise in estate planning and legacy or planned giving, as well as a drop in cash gifts due to economic uncertainty. That’s why taking advantage now of August being the National Make-A-Will Month is a great fundraising step. You have a significant opportunity to increase your nonprofit’s planned gifts by making your donors aware of this. Charity Navigator has

Read More »