Today brings another article about giving circles quoting our friend Daria Teutonica:
“Our database has doubled in the last two years from 220 giving circles to 400," says Daria Teutonica, director, New Ventures in Philanthropy, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit dedicated to growing philanthropy in the United States "The number of people involved in giving circles has also doubled. This is not a flash in the pan."
Part of the appeal of giving circles is how accessible they are. Angela Eikenberry is an assistant professor at the Center for Public Administration and Policy, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., and author of the report "Giving Circles and Fundraising in the New Philanthropy Environment." She has identified three basic types of giving circles: small group (think book clubs); loose networks or groups that gather around events like a potluck dinner to raise money for specific causes; and formal organizations such as Social Venture Partners Calgary, which are more like voluntary associations with a board and committees.
Personally, I think that the book club type and the formal type are the two that will come to dominate. The book club type in important because it will bring some formality to the giving process for people who generally give reactively to solicitations. This will be good for excellent nonprofits (Their supporters will alert their giving circles to their good work) and be bad for the less than excellent nonprofits (“I’ll have my giving club review your solicitation and get back to you if we decide to fund your proposal”).
The more formal giving club will be important because of the way it will aggregate large, but not huge givers into a group that can rival philanthropic entities like private foundations. The article mentions Social Venture Partners (I’m recording a podcast with SVP executive director Paul Shoemaker today). Full Circle Fund of San Francisco is another interesting group. These “Giving Circles on Steroids” represent a kind of philanthropic capital that can influence large foundations, collaborate with them, or co-invest in foundation led grantmaking. Nancy Roob, CEO of Edna McConnell Clark Foundation told us on Friday that,
We see the emerging generation of new philanthropists as an important – if not critical – partner in our work to help organizations with proven services reach greater numbers of youth.
Social Venture Partners already lists EMCF on their website as a kind of kindred spirit. I would not be surprised if the two groups have already jointly funded some grantees. Whether they have or not, I think there exists a whole host of opportunities if the field of philanthropy can embrace the concept of co-opetition.