Giving circles are a way of organizing many people to give contributions to the same charitable causes. Where one person may not always see the impact of a single donation to a charity, the giving circle method can make a significant impact on a charity through multiple or sustained donations. All you need are members, a financial commitment and a worthy cause.
Most giving circles are groups of women who are grounded in a tradition of volunteerism and sharing. These women bring a legacy of community engagement and welcome all who are interested in contributing. Giving circles can be small and informal – a neighborhood potluck, for instance – with a few people pooling their money and giving it to a chosen charity, or they can be highly organized and involve contributions of thousands of dollars and demonstrate a commitment of many years.
Time commitments vary depending on level of participation. The time commitment may range from as few as eight hours a year for quarterly meeting participation to up to 25 hours a month to lead the giving circle, which would include running monthly meetings, vetting potential donor organizations and organizing community activities.
“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” —Diane Mariechild
Nonprofit organizations are reeling from the economy and the good work that they do is in jeopardy. Another problem is that some people want to give but don’t believe they can make a difference with a small amount of money.
Women from different backgrounds and professions can become change agents in their community by organizing many contributions, through the giving circle, to select charities. Members not only help to fund different non-profit organizations, they can also choose to offer their time and talent. In return, they build a new, social network and bolster community resources.
Women can become change agents in their community with a small contribution of time and money.
Step 1: Determine if you want to join an existing giving circle or develop one of your own
The Giving Circle Network lists more than 250 giving circles that give largely to local communities or consider starting a giving circle of your own.
Step 2: Determine the cause(s) and establish your mission
Since giving circles are democratically arranged, they provide donors with an equal voice in deciding where their contributions go. Think about the causes that stir your passion, and then chat with community organizers with direct experience for ideas on how the giving circle can make a positive change.
Start simply with a single charity or designate a general category, such as faith-based charities, inner city youth, seniors or the poor and needy. Most small giving circles find worthy causes on their own; some larger giving circles invite charities to apply for contributions. See the below Questions to Ask Charities Before Donating, which may help you select a viable charity.
Step 3: Find members and create work groups
Select a group of your friends, co-workers, neighbors or family members who may share a common interest, explain the concept of a giving circle, and invite them to attend a first meeting to see if they’d like to participate. Set a date to host the meeting, so you can set up the circle’s structure.
The group may be as informal or as organized as everyone likes; remember that everyone has an equal voice. And make sure there is time for socializing too! Giving circles are a fun way to meet new women as well as spending time with old friends.
Considerations might include:
Step 4: Manage the money
The simplest way to manage the funds is for each member to write a personal check to the selected charity. Then you can present the set of checks together so the charity can track where the support came from.
Step 5: Evaluate the Impact
Set milestones for your short-term and long-term goals on a regular basis. It is motivating to see exactly how your contributions can make a difference – in your community at large, and in the lives of individuals.
Step 6: Inspire others on Create The Good
KEEP UP THE GOOD!
Visit Create the Good for a range of opportunities to use your life experience, skills and passions to benefit your community.
1. Can your charity clearly communicate who it is and what it does?
If a charity struggles to articulate its mission and its programs, it may struggle to deliver those programs. If a charity can’t explain who it is and what it does, and why it is needed, find one that can. The stakes are too high and too many good organizations exist that know exactly who they are, what they do and why they are needed.
2. Can your charity define its short-term and long-term goals?
Organizations without quantifiable goals have no way to measure success. Select a charity that knows what it is working toward. Determine if the organization is working toward its goals in a way that seems rational and productive to you.
3. Can your charity tell you the progress it has made (or is making) toward its goal?
Ask your organization what it has done to make the issue it confronts better. What are its results? Ask for real stories and real proof.
4. Do your charity’s programs make sense to you?
If you support the mission of an organization, ask yourself if its programs also make sense. You believe in the cause, and you hope for the best end result, but is the organization working toward that goal with a method that makes sense to you? Just because you support the ends doesn’t mean you support the means.
5. Can you trust your charity?
Research from Charity Navigator www.charitynavigator.org has shown that the majority of charities in the United States are responsible, honest and well-managed. You need to give with confidence. Use Charity Navigator, or another unbiased source, to gather data so you will be comfortable with the organization. If you have time, check with the IRS or your state attorney general’s office. Call the president of the organization and ask the questions you need answered before you can be assured that this is a good use of your money. Ask for an annual report.
6. Are you willing to make a long-term commitment to this organization?Intelligent giving is motivated by altruism, knowledge and perspective, not a knee-jerk reaction to a television commercial. Is your charity the type of organization to which you’re willing to make a long-term commitment? Look hard and find an organization you can support for many years. When you find that charity, give it your dollars, tell it you’ll be there through thick and thin, and then continue to support it. Only then will long-term sustainable change take place.
Guidestar – www2.guidestar.org
Guidestar offers comprehensive, up-to-date information available on more than 1.8 million nonprofits.
Charity Navigator – www.charitynavigator.org/
This site helps donors find charities they can trust. As America’s premier independent charity evaluator, they work to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of more than 5,400 of America’s largest charities.
American Institute of Philanthropy – www.charitywatch.org
AIP is a nonprofit charity watchdog and information service that provides donors with the information they need to make more informed giving decisions.
Charitable Giving Calculator – www.aarp.org/giving-back/charitable-giving
Find out your tax savings and how much you can afford to give. Simply enter the amount you’d like to give and your federal tax bracket into the calculator to display the net cost of the donation and your tax savings.
The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers: Women's Philanthropy – http://www.abagrantmakers.org/?page=Women_Philanthropy&hhSearchTerms=Women%27s+and+Philanthropy
Small Scale Philanthropy: Giving Circles Socialize, Donate to Charities – http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090104/LIFE/901040322
Women in Philanthropy – http://www.scnow.com/news/local/article_4adfb08b-309d-553f-aec6-c8043eaf9daf.html