Giving Circles

If giving circles represented a for-profit market opportunity, I’d be saying that the  Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and the Washington Area Women’s Foundation (WAWF) were cornering the market. Every time the mainstream media covers giving circles you find quotes or mentions of these two organizations. Today’s Wall Street Journal article “When Small Donors Get Together”, quotes the Forum’s Daria Teutonico and features WAWF (WAWF has a great blog by the way).

So what’s so important about the giving circle trend? I’ve already written at length on this topic here, here and here. I think the key is that 1) giving circles represent the point of intersection between social, “heart” based giving and technical, “mind” based giving, and 2) giving circles mirror exactly the investment clubs that sprang up during the early 1990’s and signaled the emergence of the individual investor as a driving force behind the mainstreaming of investing.

The Forum’s New Ventures in Philanthropy project has launched a new version of their website that features a great selection of “how to’s” on giving circles. The list includes:

  • Ten Basic Steps to Starting a Giving Circle
  • Giving Circle Lifecycle
  • Options for Giving Circles
  • Choosing Nonprofits for Funding

Another resource is the Giving Circles Network:

Our mission is to assist Giving Circles and other individual donors in making their contributions more meaningful by helping them to better network among themselves, leverage their resources, and enhance the impact of their giving.

No matter how often you hear me or other people talk about new donor strategies, “investing” in nonprofits or other philanthropy 2.0 buzzwords, at the end of the day giving is always going to be an emotional, social action. The Second Great Wave of Philanthropy is not going to be characterized by a movement to emotionless, logical giving. It is going to be a bringing together of heart and mind, social and individual to forge a new force that will have the power to transform our society.

One Comment

  1. Lisa Kays says:

    Sean, thanks for the mention…really enjoyed your post today, especially the last paragraph about the increasing emphasis on giving between heart and mind.

    From attending our workshops here, and listening to giving circle members talk, I think this is one of the greatest benefits they feel from giving through a circle–the personal emotional and intellectual interplay that ensues from negotiating, discussing, persuading and eventually deciding through a group about the best giving decisions.

    My sense is that it enriches our giving circle members personally, and also leads to the emergence of the actual “best” recipient for the grant rising to the top…sort of the power of the collective unconscience to unearth the right thing.

    I’m currently involved in our Leadership Awards Process–similar to a giving circle in terms of shared grantmaking decision-making–and will let you know if my experience yields this!

    All the best, Lisa