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Giving Circles—A Fundraising Opportunity

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

I recently attended a workshop on Giving Circles at a local AFP Chapter meeting. Four panelists from diverse communities talked about how their Giving Circle organizations are making an impact in their communities.

But first, let me describe what a giving circle is. A giving circle is a group of individuals who pool their funds together for a common cause. They can be very informal, such as a group of friends or colleagues; or they can be formal 401(c)3 organizations. You may have heard the term, ‘giving club’ which may be a really informal group of friends or relatives doing the same thing. Moderator Hoa Tran of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation called Giving Circles “strategic giving where the donors are more involved.”

Asian Women Giving Circle

Michelle Branch of the Full Circle Fund says, “It’s a member-driven grant process. Members of the Full Circle Fund giving circle determine who the grantees should be.” The members are highly involved with the organizations funded. They have three circles of interest: education, the environment, and global economic opportunity.

Dee Dee Nguyen of Lunar Circle calls giving circles “potluck philanthropy.” She says they reach out to folks who didn’t think they could be philanthropists. They concentrate their resources to the San Francisco Bay Area’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

Donna Delaney introduced the Lantern League a women’s giving circle that has distributed funds to various local non-profit groups who provide educational programs for women and girls.

Each of the giving circles varied in how they are structured, how much they give, how they select grantees, causes they support, and the type of involvement they want with the grantee organizations. To search for giving circle opportunities near you, do a Google search. Type in: giving circle + your city’s name