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The Impact of Giving Circles

May 17, 2022

Likely you’ve heard the term “giving circle” – it’s a collective philanthropy term that’s become something of a buzzword lately. However, this is not a new phenomenon. Giving circles of various types have existed across cultures throughout history.

So, what is a giving circle? In giving circles, people with common interests, concerns or backgrounds come together to pool their resources, maximize their impact and support organizations, causes or issues that matter to them. It’s a form of participatory philanthropy that is powered by the people who contribute.

Collective giving is not new, and is a model that spans the globe and goes by many names, from “susu” in West Africa to “tanda” in Mexico. Giving circles are widespread and have brought together friends, neighbors, and diverse communities for decades.

Today, it’s estimated there are around 2,000 giving circles in the world who come together to make collaborative decisions about where to share resources in this accessible, democratic and relationship-based form of giving. There are giving circles focused on just about every issue and community.

A few more facts about giving circles:

  • Giving circles are especially useful for deepening knowledge about focus areas, specific issues or specific geographic areas.
  • Giving circles help participants collectively learn about philanthropy, and some also organize volunteer opportunities.
  • Giving circles are usually hosted by a nonprofit organization, so a donor’s contribution is tax deductible.

Our last Planning Matters blog post introduced Ripple Impact NW, a nonprofit providing programs to educate and empower individuals in Clark County who are interested in learning about and participating in philanthropy. One of the core programs Ripple Impact NW offers our community is giving circles, and I was able to participate in the first one they hosted earlier this year.

Some of Ripple Impact NW’s giving circles are focused on a specific cause, and in others the group decides together which direction to explore. For this first giving circle, we decided to explore children’s mental health in Clark County. It was a great learning experience for me as we listened to those closest to children in need describe what they are seeing and experiencing. We also learned about the amazing services already being delivered to these children in personal and impactful ways. Representatives from six local non-profit organizations personally shared with us their specific ways of serving this population and tied it to how our contribution dollars could further make an impact.

It was a tough choice to decide where our grant money would go since all six organizations are doing amazing work! In the end, we chose to support two groups whose missions personally touched each of us. Our giving circle concluded with a celebration which included the two selected two non-profits. What an uplifting and meaningful occasion!

The next Ripple Impact NW giving circle starts Tuesday, May 31 and focuses on programs related to Homelessness/Houselessness in Clark County. To register and learn more, click here.

The great thing about participating in a giving circle is your impact doesn’t end with that event. What I learned continues to shape my perspective about how I might be involved during my lifetime to make a positive impact in my community and help where I can. Sometimes I’m the one in need and sometimes I’m the one who can help. I think that’s what community is about – each of us helping one another.

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