Philanthropy. When many people hear the word, it can conjure an image of an individual giving money. However, recent years have seen a rise in collective giving – also called giving circles – making it easier for people to collaboratively support causes in their community.
Understanding Giving Circles
As a practice that has existed for centuries, giving circles are important in many cultures, religions and geographic regions. In a giving circle, a group of people who often share common values or beliefs combine their individual contributions to make a bigger impact. This approach has gained popularity in philanthropy recently, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review estimates there are over 2,000 giving circles in the U.S. today totaling more than 150,000 people who donate a collective $1.3 billion.
So, why are more people choosing to give through giving circles? There are several reasons to consider joining or starting a giving circle:
- Ensure your opinion matters: Regardless of how much you donate, giving circles democratize philanthropy by allowing all members to have an equal say in how and where the group allocates its donation.
- Break down barriers: Giving circles streamline the process of giving by reducing barriers for those who would like to give charitably. Participants are encouraged to give a personally meaningful contribution, which when combined with the donations of others can make their giving go further.
- Prioritize trust: Giving circle members generally spend time exploring community issues and discussing innovative solutions together, putting relationships and shared values at the center of their work.
Finding a Giving Circle That Matches Your Values
Anyone can join or start a giving circle, and there are numerous types of giving circles from which to choose. One example of a giving circle is a new cohort recently launched by Rose Community Foundation called Generation Now Circle, which brings together a diverse group of engaged individuals ages 25-40. Participants learn about issues facing the Greater Denver community and collectively decide where to give $50,000 – provided by Rose Community Foundation along with personally meaningful member contributions – to local nonprofit organizations.
Some giving circles have a more targeted focus, too. For example, Rose Community Foundation facilitates Rose Women’s Circle, which brings together women from a range of backgrounds, ethnicities, lived experiences, religious affiliations and generations to focus on advancing gender equity in the community. Members hear from outside speakers about issues impacting women and girls before selecting the focus of their grantmaking each year. Additionally, Roots & Branches Foundation engages Jewish young adults in an eight-month program where they explore Jewish values, learn about community issues and put the tools of giving to work. Rose Youth Foundation is a youth-led giving circle designed for Jewish teens to learn about strategic philanthropy.
Creating Your Own Giving Circle
Giving circles are versatile – they come in all sizes, focus on different topics and vary in level of formality, duration and dollars granted. In fact, you can even create your own giving circle with family and friends. This can be a meaningful way to make a greater difference than you could on your own, while also providing a platform for learning that can deepen the relationships of participants in your giving circle.
Rose Community Foundation’s Friends and Family Giving Circle Toolkit is a great resource to plan your first giving circle meeting. The guide provides a giving circle template, outlining step-by-step instructions to host a 90-minute giving circle, including identifying your “why,” deciding on the size of your giving circle, a planning how-to guide for contributions, setting a process for decision-making and determining which nonprofits to consider.
Whether you participate in a formal giving circle or decide to start your own, your participation has the power to bring people together and reinforce that all levels of giving are valuable. In a giving circle, every voice and each gift is part of a collective whole that makes a difference for its members, as well as the broader community.