Giving Circles Becoming More Diverse, Study Finds

Giving Circles Becoming More Diverse, Study Finds

The composition of giving circles is becoming more diverse, and newer members are more likely to join because of their desire to engage deeply with a cause or issue, two reports from the Collective Giving Research Group and the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy find. 

The first, Giving Circle Membership: How Collective Giving Impacts Donors (12 pages, PDF), found that giving circle members give more money and time, give more strategically, are more engaged in civic and political activities, and have philanthropic networks that are more diverse in terms of race, religion, and socioeconomic status than do non-members. Indeed, compared with established members, who tend to be older, white, higher-income, and married, newer members are more diverse in terms of race, gender, and income levels. According to the study, newer members also are more likely to join out of a desire to engage more deeply with a specific cause or issue and are more likely to prioritize giving in support of social change, whereas established members are more likely to prioritize religious giving. 

Based on a survey of eighty-six community foundations and public charities, the second report, Dynamics of Hosting Giving Circles (48 pages, PDF), examined the motivations of community foundations and other organizations for hosting giving circles, the services they offer, the costs involved, and the benefits and challenges of doing so. According to the survey, 92 percent of respondents cited wanting to contribute to a culture of philanthropy in their communities as their primary motivation for hosting a giving circle, while 91 percent perceived doing so as a benefit, followed by reaching new donors (81 percent cited as a motivation and 85 percent as a benefit), reaching a more diverse set of donors (74 percent and 64 percent), and increasing the organization's visibility (70 percent and 74 percent). 

The most common services offered by host organizations were acting as a fiscal sponsor so that the giving circle could receive tax-deductible contributions (100 percent), providing communications support (82 percent), organizing educational opportunities for members (73 percent), and soliciting proposals from potential grantees (64 percent). In terms of the challenges associated with hosting, the surveyed foundations cited staff time required, differences in expectations between the giving circle and the foundation, and cost. 

The report also includes profiles of ten foundations that host giving circles and provides details on their staffing, services, and fees; benefits to the host organization and community; challenges; and lessons learned.

"We are excited to see increased diversity in giving circles, especially the inclusion of more people of color," said Julia L. Carboni, an assistant professor at Syracuse University and one of the founding members of the Collective Giving Research Group. "Past research has shown that people of color tend to give generously to their communities. Giving circles are a perfect vehicle to support this community-engaged philanthropy." 

"New Research Shows That Giving Circles Attract Increasingly Diverse Donors." Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Press Release 11/13/2018.