What is a Giving Circle?

A giving circle is a group of people who use their collective abilities to make positive change in the community. It is an effective way to connect with other like-minded people, learn more about issues in the community and pool funds to have greater social impact. The giving circle approach inspires, educates and encourages group members to be engaged and connected philanthropists. This model particularly appeals to women.

All members of a giving circle have committed to come together for a common philanthropic purpose. They agree on the financial amount each person contributes and develop democratic decision-making processes for all funding allocations. Typically, individuals in the group seek to be involved more actively by volunteering their time to assist the running of the giving circle and/or by providing support to the organisations they fund.

Giving circles vary in size, structure and focus. It depends on what the members are looking for and who is driving the establishment of the group. Part of what makes them appealing is their flexibility. Some circles are small and very informal, almost like a book group, that meet in each other’s homes, share ideas and take it in turns to decide where their combined funds should be invested. Others are much more formal with detailed investment criteria, due diligence processes, site visits and their own non-profit status.

While often having close relationships within the non-profit sector, giving circles maintain their independence from any particular non-profit entity. They are not fundraising vehicles for one particular organisation. Do not confuse ‘giving circles’ with ‘circles of giving’. ‘Circles of giving’ are typically strategic fundraising initiatives requiring affiliation to one non-profit organisation and their social programs. An example of a ‘circle of giving’ is the Red Cross Tiffany Circle Society of Women Leaders in the US.

Starting a giving circle is relatively simple and could be one of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences you have in your life! Anyone can do it.

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