The Giving Circle
Giving circles pool contributions from individuals that are interested in donating to a unified cause or charity. Popularity of this form of crowdfunding has doubled over the last eight years in the United States.
The Transition Network’s Giving Circle provides grants that help to change the life of women and children who live in the Greater Philadelphia area. In 2016 their funding to New Leash on Life-USA supported a series of prison dog training programs, in which rescue dogs are placed in prison with female inmates who care for them and socialize them, enhancing their adoptability. Post-release, the women are offered paid internships in the animal care field and access to mentoring support programs.
“Through my involvement with the Philadelphia Chapter of the Transition Network I have become a member of a giving circle. Donating $200 to their giving circle gives me a voice in what female-serving non-profit will receive this year’s grant.”
This is a relatively new trend, but it is built on traditions dating back hundreds of years. Early groups were primarily composed of women, but today’s giving circles attract a diverse group of all race, age, gender and sex. The circles can be informal or formal and can range in size from a handful of members to several hundreds.
Research conducted by Angela M. Eikenberry, an associate professor of the University of Nebraska and considered to be a leading expert on the matter, found that giving circles generally bring long-time and new philanthropists to organized philanthropy. Members appear to be more thoughtful, focused and strategic in their personal giving because of educational experiences.
Compared to givers not in a giving circle, members gave more often to groups that support women, ethnic and minority groups. They also favored the arts, culture, environment, neighborhood development and advocacy. Their giving was less traditional than usual for donors.
Examples of giving circles in Philadelphia include The Asian Mosaic Fund, which address the needs of the local Asian community and develops local Asian philanthropic neighborhood leaders. Impact 100 Philadelphia supports local nonprofits with varied missions. The Philadelphia Public School Giving Circle is dedicated to providing small grants to support neighborhood public schools.
If you are interested in starting a giving circle, start with the Giving Circle Network. Information and tips on existing giving circles can also be found online. If you’re a member of AARP, check out their guide to starting a Giving Circle for women.
Linda I. Koven, MSW, LCSW
Professional Care Manager