Giving Circles Growing as Key Philanthropy Tool

Giving Circles Growing as Key Philanthropy Tool

May 16th, 2011

by Angela White


Over the past decade, the concept of a giving circle has established itself as a growing and effective philanthropic trend among all wealth levels and backgrounds. The social aspects of giving circles, however, also make them uniquely suited for two rising philanthropic audiences – women and Millennials.

A 2009 report on giving circles, demonstrated their effectiveness showing that giving circle members give more, give more strategically, and are more knowledgeable about nonprofits in their communities.  

[You can download the full report and access tools to learn how to set up your own giving circle from start to finish at The Giving Circles Knowledge Center, hosted by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.]

But it is their unique ability to combine social interaction and peer-to-peer fundraising that makes giving circles stand out as a trend for the future. 

In my work in women’s philanthropy and in JGA’s ongoing research on millennial donors, we have seen evidence that both of these audiences look for the ability to combine their giving decisions with their interactions within their community, family and friends. Both audiences seek to make philanthropy a social activity.

For example, in our 2011 Millennial Donors study with our partner Achieve, we found that Millennials want to engage with friends and family in volunteering, are motivated to give by friend or peer endorsement and are more likely to trust an organization if their friends or family endorse it.

I’ve also seen some interesting examples of giving circles working to successfully engage women donors.

First, there is the High Water Women group.  Founded in 2005 by senior-level women in the hedge fund industry, High Water Women provides funding to nonprofit partners while also sharing its members’ financial expertise with the nonprofits.  

Looking at the next generation of female donors, check out GirlUP (insert website here: GirlUp gives girls in the US the opportunity to raise money for U.N. programs that reach girls in other countries.

As you can see, giving circles are already being employed effectively with women and girls, but what about the Millennials?

It may be a case of lack of education. While in theory giving circles should lend themselves well to young donors who seek socialization with their giving, our research shows that 50% of Millennials were uncertain about the role of a giving circle.

To me this means we have a wonderful opportunity to engage Millennials in giving circles once we first show them how Giving circles can help them combine fun and philanthropy.

Do you have any examples of successful giving circles for women or Millennials you can share?

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