• The contribution of giving circle members was important for us by building relationships with important people and government officers, it helped out advocacy and networking efforts become visible.

    Suman Dasgupta Muktangan
    An NGO supported by the Dasra Giving Circles, India

  • We got the chance to interact with other donors and discuss issues in a group, as opposed to doing it alone.

    Luis Miranda
    Luis is a private equity partners.
    He and his wife are members of Dasra Giving Circles, India

  • We felt that joining a giving circle gave us the opportunity to participate in a bigger project without shouldering all the day-to-day management support, and like the club deals we do commercially, the circle helped us build relationships with other funders.

    Susanne Grossmann
    Dalyan Foundation, Switzerland, a member of Dasra Giving Circles, India

  • When New Day Asia (giving circle) members visited our offices in Phnom Penh it was an opportunity to communicate face-to-face about the project's successes and challenges. They asked questions and provided insightful inputs to help me better execute our operations.

    Seila Samleang
    APLE Executive Director Cambodia

  • The young generation in Japan realised they could no longer bask in the promise of economic growth and job security after the downturn — many shifted their life goals towards making contributions to the society.

    Ken Ito
    Member of Social Ventures Partners Tokyo

  • The concept of venture philanthropy is interesting to many business people, who have been chequebook philanthropists but want to be more involved in giving, who want to know how their gifts are spent.

    Akila Krishankumar
    Chair of Bangalore Chapter of SVP India

  • Opportunity to get involved with non-profits in a much more meaningful way, way beyond writing a cheque and not knowing what happened to the money.

    Catherina Toh
    Member of SVP Melbourne

  • A great way to make significant contributions to the community, increase public awareness of local issues and organisations, and inspire philanthropic giving in Fremantle through an exciting new format.

    Dylan Smith
    CEO of Fremantle Foundation, partner of Impact 100 Freemantle




Put very simply a giving circle is a group of individuals who pool their money and collectively decide on donating to a particular non-profit organisation. Some giving circles are self-managed, whose members evaluate potential non-profits and administer grants. Other circles, especially larger ones, employ professional staff for day-to-day grant management. Most circles encourage their members to contribute time and skills as well as money to the organisations being supported. Giving circles usually offer grants to support non-profits, but others use loans or equity funding to invest in social enterprises.

Giving circles also provide their members with the opportunity to learn more about effective giving, how non-profits respond to problems in their community.

By engaging their members with non-profits or having a strong educational function, giving circles are more than simply aggregators of charitable funds. They can add value to grantmaking and provide an opportunity for individuals to develop good philanthropic practices.

The American academic, Professor Angela Eikenberry, wrote that while ‘giving circles are difficult to define...it is possible to describe at least five major dimensions... Generally, they pool and give away resources, educate members about philanthropy and issues in the community, include a social dimension, engage members and maintain their independence’.

While most giving circles will exhibit these core characteristics, there is a wide diversity of practices (“if you’ve seen one giving circle, well, you’ve seen one giving circle”), as the table below illustrates. Even those circles affiliated to networks of circles can adapt they way they work from one city or country to another.

Size


A giving circle might be as small as 4 or 5 individuals, while others can grow to a 100 or more.



Composition


Giving circles may have a very mixed composition in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, religious affiliation, professional background etc. Others might be formed around one of more such dimensions. In the U.S., particularly, many giving circles comprise women only.



Affiliations & Partnerships


A giving circle might be formally linked to other circles within a network, and have resulted from deliberate expansion to new cities or countries. Other circles might have formed spontaneously without any formal connection to others.

Many giving circles partner with other philanthropic organisations, especially community foundations, which provide administrative or project support.



Management


In some giving circles, members manage all aspects of the circle’s activity - selecting which non-profits to support, grant management, marketing, member recruitment.

Other giving circles employ full or part time staff to manage day-to-day activities.



Profile


Many giving circles, especially those affiliated with networks, have a public profile with a website and promotional material. Others may be private, known only to their members.



Engagement


There can be a wide spectrum of engagement by members in the non-profits that their circles support. While some circles engage only very lightly with non-profits beyond a funding transaction, others encourage a much deeper involvement by offering advice or volunteering time.



Scope


Most giving circles are localised – funding non-profits within their own geographic communities. But there are giving circles with a wider mandate, which give nationally or even internationally.



Finance


Giving circles generally give grants from the pooled donations of their members, but some respond to the needs of social enterprises by offering loans or buying equity where local regulations allow.

The annual donation size of individual members into the pool varies considerably from a few hundred dollars (U.S.) to tens of thousands, from one circle to another.

Even small donations are aggregated in a giving circle and so the grants given to non-profits are relatively large and often represent significant income for the organisation.



Education


The act of giving collectively involves working with other members from choosing which non-profit to support to understand the social impact eventually made by the organisation. This has, in itself, educational value for individuals who are new to organised giving. Some giving circles supplement this peer learning by offering structured opportunities such as talks on philanthropy or visits.



Giving Circles Are Not New

People have given together for centuries in many cultures and countries, often organised along clan or faith-based affiliations. But what we are seeing in many countries, including in Asia, is a frustration with casual charitable giving and an interest in more focused and structured philanthropy. Giving circles may reflect this new interest in organised philanthropy and provide opportunities for newcomers to learn from others.




Dasra’s Giving Circles help individuals grow as philanthropists

The eleven Dasra Giving Circles in India have channelled over US$5.6 million of funding and provided over 2,000 days of capacity-building support to the social sector.

Dasra’s website reports that joining a giving circle was helpful to individuals in these ways:



It Is Reassuring To Be A Part Of A Community Of Givers

Philanthropic giving is not easy, especially if one is left to make all the decisions. A Giving Circle helps you to be a part of a community of like minded individuals where you can draw upon the experiences and learnings of others like you and feel more confident about the decision you make.



I Can See My Limited Contribution Making A Bigger Impact

Giving together magnifies the power of philanthropy. Small individual contributions put together can make a huge impact. In a Giving Circle, ten individuals commit funds over three years and such long term funding can help organizations plan better and scale their operations significantly.



I Can Relate To The Strategic Business Like Approach To Philanthropy

Dasra provides funders with detailed analysis of the sector and presents initiatives that are most effective in solving particular social issues. Just like in business, funders also hear first hand pitches from shortlisted organizations which helps them make an informed choice. Once a decision is made, Dasra provides Giving Circle members updates on the impact of their funding.



I Am Able To Support Several Issues That I Feel Strongly About

A Giving Circle contribution is small enough for you to spare funding for other causes and issues that you may feel strongly about. This way, you can help make an impact on many social problems around you.



---------- (From the Dasra's website) ----------




Donor circles are giving circles that benefit one particular charity. Rather than being initiated by one or more individuals as a mechanism to pool resources and support several non-profit organisations, a donor circle is a fundraising tool of a particular charity. Donor circles may share several characteristics with giving circles, work collaboratively and have an education function. The charity may offer the circle a menu of choices about what to fund within the organisation’s portfolio of projects. Our own research, and this website, excludes donor circles simply to help us focus on independent initiatives created by individuals.

Visibility: There are probably far more giving circles than we know about. Circles can be so informal and low-key that their existence is hard to determine. This ‘ice berg’ effect, where giving circles lie beneath the surface may be particularly true in Asia in countries where tax and regulation may not incentivise circles to become registered. Some groups simply wish to operate anonymously and informally, without a website or publicity.