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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The growing giving circle movement: What it is and how you can get involved

Almost every day, it can feel like you’re waking up to news relating to crises that you want to do something about. Countries around the world continue to battle COVID-19, communities face climate challenges that create natural disasters, and so much more. In addition to all of these, your desire may be strong to find more meaningful ways to give back in your own community. But how can you, as one person, really make a difference?

It’s actually easier (and probably more rewarding and fun) than you might think. 

One of the best ways to make an impact in your community, or generally in areas that you care about, is to start a giving circle. What’s a giving circle? It’s simply bringing a group of people together to commit to giving collectively to causes that the group votes to support. 

Giving circles aren’t a new idea, but they’re certainly starting to catch on. For example, giving circles now include more than 150,000 members in the U.S. and are expected to grow to 350,000 members over the next few years and move $1Bn in donations. Major funders like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Richard Schulz Family Foundation, and Fidelity Charitable, as well as giving circle networks like Philanthropy Together, the Latino Giving Circle Network, the Community Investment Network (CIN), Philanos, 100 Who Care Alliance, and Amplifier, are all helping to create and support communities of giving.

The best part about these giving circles is that they’re helping to provide more unrestricted funding to smaller, more local, more diverse nonprofits. For example, Vocal Minority, a group that was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area, is focused on supporting social justice nonprofits with operating budgets under $5 million. 

This model tracks with how MacKenzie Scott, one of the wealthiest people in the world, has thought about giving away her billions in 2020. Scott provided millions in unrestricted funds to local nonprofits around the country. Giving circles are a way for individuals who give at all different levels to participate in this type of philanthropy. 

So, how can you start your own giving circle? 

Step 1: Find a small group of friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, or others who are interested in making a difference together.

Step 2: Work with this group to discuss how you’d like to run your giving circle. Here’s one quick example. Every group member commits to donating $25 or more each month to address emerging issues in the world today. Each month, individuals can submit nonprofits for the group to discuss, and at the end of the month you vote on the nonprofit to collectively support.

Step 3: When you’ve got your core team on board and have decided your structure, start your giving circle! Get your core group to make their donations and start spreading the word. Ask each member to invite a few friends and consider sharing on social media.

Step 4: After your group’s donations are in, start the nomination or voting process that you’ve agreed to. Direct the funding to the organization and feel great about what you’ve accomplished.

Step 5: Repeat!

Groups like this have been able to donate thousands of dollars each month to help causes in their community. When they wake up and read the news, they know that they’re playing a small part in impacting and improving the world around them. 

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Read here for Grapevine's second and third blog posts about Giving Circles.

Written by Emily Rasmussen, CEO & Founder of Grapevine. Grapevine is a new, free platform that makes it incredibly easy for giving circle groups to collect donations, communicate with members, find nonprofits to support, and grant their pooled funds. Visit them today at: https://www.grapevine.org/ 

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