Giving Circles

Giving Circles
Giving Circles

Last week, we explored a meritorious program, Adopt- A Native Elder and learned about the prominence of giving circles as part of the Dine people’s spiritual and cultural tradition. Since then, I have come across more examples of Giving Circles across the United States primarily operated by women.

The Forum of Regional Associations of Grant makers produces an informative media piece concerning women and philanthropy. An estimated $14 trillion in assets is controlled by women in the United States. In direct proportion to women’s growth in income and professional status, there has been a growth in their role in philanthropy, therefore Giving Circles have become a rewarding way for women to help impact their communities and at the same time, nurture relationships with other women.

One such group based in Omaha, Nebraska, The Red Heart Society is dedicated to offering a hand to women in need. The 25 member group meets every other month for lunch to listen to a local non-profit give a presentation. After the lunch meeting, the members each write a check for $100 to the local non-profit. It’s proven to be an effective system since in the last six years, they have raised over $55,000.

Another group in Key Biscayne, Florida known as Smart Women with Spare Change participate in organizations that help both women and girls, invest their money by contributing spare change and to date have raised over $5,000.

So how does one start a Giving Circle initiative in one’s own community?

Six Simple Steps to Starting a Giving Circle

1. Gather friends and acquaintances who share your interest in making a difference.

2. Together, determine the mission for your giving circle. What do you want to accomplish? What kinds of causes or organizations do you want to support?

3. Figure out the financial basics. How much will each person give? Where will you keep the pooled money? How will you make grants and how often will you do so?

4. Decide on logistics. Where will you meet and how often?

5. Make a plan for selecting organizations to receive your support. Will you seek and review proposals? Take recommendations from members? Must there be unanimous support to make a contribution – or just a majority?

6. Divide and conquer! Delegate tasks to members so that everyone can be involved.

More resources on starting a giving circle are available online at the Giving Circles Knowledge Center ( hosted by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.

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