Giving networks


  • While some people believe that giving is a very private activity, others like to share the pleasure of giving and be part of a group where issues relating to wealth and charity can be discussed freely. 
  • In the UK a number of formal and informal networks are emerging around areas of interest. Some are private, but others have open meetings and encourage new members.
Read more about Giving networks

By giving as a group, donors can learn together about their community and about philanthropy. These groups, known as giving circles and networks, can take many forms and generally involve groups of individuals coming together with a philanthropic purpose, pooling their resources, and deciding collectively where to give their money.

In some areas of giving, such as the arts, there are far more opportunities to meet fellow donors than in others, such as social welfare or overseas development. In the UK a number of formal and informal networks are emerging around areas of interest. Some are private, but others have open meetings and encourage new members.

Giving circles or networks can have a variety of different focuses, including:  

  • local – a group of like-minded people who give to local causes;
  • interest-based – give to a specific cause;
  • project-based – micro-trusts or ‘giving clubs’ in which a group of people come together to focus on one project and then disband;
  • event-based – networks that draw people together for charitable events and giving;
  • in-house corporate – networks within companies that give often via CSR practices; and
  • social media networks – a flourishing trend of collective giving via online sites such as Facebook.

Benefits of giving together
Giving networks allow donors to benefit from the past experiences of all participants, as well as discussing and drawing lessons form their shared giving. It is an ideal way for those new to giving to develop as philanthropists and see the power that their donations can have. Aside from jointly developing good giving practices, giving networks are a forum for philanthropists to share ideas about the role of philanthropy in family life and hear about other people’s strategies for giving. Donors may also find that they learn of projects which the network chooses not to fund, but which they want to fund independently.

One of the most appealing and effective aspects of giving circles and networks is the opportunity to shape the group to meet the particular needs of a community, and the interests and capabilities of participants. Networks vary in size and structure, ranging from an informal group of friends meeting locally to large, formal organisations with employed staff members.

Giving collectively can promote the giving of further resources such as time and expertise, to increase the impact of the financial donation. This is a great way for donors who feel committed to the mission of an organisation to express their support of the organisations they fund in an enjoyable way. For donor circles with a geographical focus, this can contribute to a broader community response through fundraising and awareness raising. See giving time.

Starting a new giving circle or network
You may be able to find an existing giving network to join, or you may want to start a new  giving circle for yourself and associates. If so, it will be useful to discuss with potential members:

  • the size and type of circle, and who you want to involve;
  • your mission, objectives and focus areas;
  • the level of commitment required from members in terms of time and finances;
  • how you plan to structure meetings, delineate responsibilities, and take decisions;
  • how to capture and build on past learning;
  • how you plan to identify potential recipients; and
  • the ways in which you will evaluate your impact.

Tax efficient giving
To have even more impact with your giving circle’s funds, you should ensure that your giving is tax efficient. Depending on the focus and approach of your giving circles you may want to explore the options offered via Gift Aid, setting up a charitable trust, or being hosted by a community foundation which will manage the financial aspects as well as offer opportunities for co-operation and shared learning. See Giving tax effectively.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself and don’t worry about every detail; keep your eye on the big picture (i.e. the impact of your donations) and let your circle develop its shape over time. There is no one ‘right’ model for giving circles. Your original goals and purpose may change as the circle, and the impact of your giving, evolves.

A version of this article, written by Philanthropy UK, was published in a previous edition of A Guide to Giving (2008).