Giving Circles: Fostering Learning, Increasing Impact

For newer philanthropists and seasoned donors seeking to make an impact, Giving Circles can serve as a terrific source of sector knowledge and insights about community needs.

Giving Circles create opportunities for donors to pool their individual, smaller contributions. Working together, members of the group can make thoughtful, collective decisions about allocating the funds to vetted nonprofits.  Giving Circles foster peer learning and connections.  These groups often make grants within specific geographic footprints and may be focused around aligned values or community needs. In some instances, Circle participation may be limited to those who have an account or fund at an organizing institution.

Member dues vary, as does the size and volume of grants. A few examples:

Spirit of St. Louis (SOS) Women’s Fund members each pledge $1200 annually; since 2007, SOS has donated $3.4M into 106+ nonprofits in the region.

YouthBridge Community Foundation hosts a Giving Circle for teenagers called YEP STL! (“Youth Engaged in Philanthropy”). It’s free for students to participate; YEPSTL gives away $10,000 a year.

There are thousands of these types of charitable organizations located across the country.  You’ll want to do some independent research on effectiveness and sustainability to ensure that a particular Giving Circle is active, legitimate—and the right fit.

To learn more about Giving Circles, see resources here and here.  You can search for a Giving Circle in your subject area or geography here.

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