Giving circles make philanthropists more generous

Giving circles make philanthropists more generous

News (International)

The Philanthropy Programme (TPP is a joint initiative between STEP and Philanthropy Impact) event last week (26 June) Bigger Gifts: the challenges and the opportunities for advisors and their clients, philanthropist Dr Frederick Mulder suggested giving circles as a way of encouraging people to become philanthropists. He said as a funder, it was important to meet peers interested in similar areas. He set up the giving circle, The Funding Network (TFN) after he made a mistake with one of his first donations to a charity, which went bankrupt shortly afterwards.

A giving circle is a group of individual donors who pool their money and other resources and decide together how they should be distributed. At TFN, funders can attend a meeting without any obligation to give. Charities are given six minutes each to pitch their funding request for the same amounts of money. Mulder has exported TFN to other countries including Australia, Bulgaria and Romania and is piloting the idea in South Africa. He also hopes to launch in the United States.

Research from the United States found that donors in giving circles give more, give more strategically and are more engaged in their communities. They also gain a greater knowledge of philanthropy. These findings are based on a survey in 2009 of 341 current and past members of 26 giving circles and a control group of 246 donors, students and public service practitioners, as well as in-depth interviews with 30 giving circle members.

It found that members of a giving circle are more likely to check an organisation’s performance data, support general operating expenses and take into consideration differences such as race, class or gender when making funding decisions.

Giving circle members give to a larger number of organisations and are also more likely to give to wider areas such as the environment, neighbourhood development, advocacy and international aid.

The study also found that the more engaged a donor is in a giving circle the more they express a sense of civic responsibility. They are also more likely to take part in civic activity outside the giving circle.

Pete Yeo, a TFN member says: “'The pessimism of thought becoming the optimism of action'... These words have stayed with me since my very first TFN event. That and the feeling of being amongst wonderful people, doing wonderful things, all toward a better world.’”

Read the report The Impact of Giving Together

  • Giving networks / circles
  • International