A giving circle gives you a hands-on opportunity to collaborate with others to practice giving in a supportive environment.
A giving circle is, in general terms, a group of donors who place their charitable dollars into a pooled fund, and decide as a group which charities to support. Giving circle donors often commit to participation for several years at an established dollar level, and the funds are typically donated to nonprofits chosen by the entire group.
Giving circles vary in structure, size and charitable focus. Some giving circles are very informal, nothing more than a group of friends with a bank account who meet in each others' homes to discuss and decide on where their funds will go. Other giving circles have hundreds of members and governing boards, and may use a community foundation to manage the financial aspects of their giving.
Some giving circles offer members an option to designate part of their annual dues to nonprofits of their own choosing (this can be done anonymously), with the remainder going into a fund for joint decision-making. Many giving circles offer their members a chance to work on grantmaking committees and evaluate nonprofits firsthand via site visits and other volunteer activities. And often, giving circles provide a venue for discussion of broader issues related to philanthropy, such as financial planning.
Operating a giving circle may involve significant legal and tax issues. It is important that you consult with a professional advisor for further information and guidance before forming a giving circle.
Here are two examples of established giving circles:
Community Capital Alliance: Twin Cities-based Community Capital Alliance is a nonprofit, non-partisan, volunteer-led organization dedicated to engaging young citizens in community service and problem solving, and to helping develop the next generation of citizen leaders. The Alliance integrates three vehicles of community involvement: financial investment, volunteer service and educational programs.
Hmong Women's Giving Circle: In 2004, Hmong staff at the Women's Foundation of Minnesota was instrumental in developing the nation's first Hmong Women's Giving Circle (HWGC) to promote philanthropy within the community, encourage activism and create social changes for Hmong women and girls in Minnesota. With the help of the Foundation and donors, the 16-member circle raised $23,000 in two years to make social change grants in the Hmong community.
Giving Circles Knowledge Center
Giving Circles and Other Ways People Are Giving
More Impact Together: The Growth & Impact of Giving Circles & Shared Giving (PDF)
Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
Giving Back, Giving Together: Starting a Giving Circle in Your Community (PDF)
Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP)
The Minnesota Council on Foundations is available for one-on-one consultations. Contact the Council for more information.