Two new reports from Women’s Philanthropy Institute and the Collective Giving Research Group explore the dynamics of giving circle members, host organizations
With support from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI), the Collective Giving Research Group (CGRG) has released two new reports about giving circles, one focused on the impact and characteristics of giving circle members, and the other on the experiences of host organizations. Both reports point to the power of giving circles to engage diverse donors and provide a deeper understanding of the dynamics surrounding this increasingly popular model for giving.
Giving circles and similar models of collaborative giving entail groups of individuals who collectively donate money and sometimes unpaid time to support organizations or projects of mutual interest. Members have a say in how funding is given and which organizations or projects are supported. In the United States, giving circles tripled in number from 2007 to 2017.
Giving Circle Membership: How Collective Giving Impacts Donors, the first of the new reports, looks at how established members of giving circles differ from new members, and found that newer members are more diverse, in terms of race, gender and income levels. In particular, participation from the Latinx community is on the rise. Newer members are also more likely to join a giving circle because of their desire to engage more deeply with a cause or issue. The report also affirms previous research, including the finding that giving circle members tend to give more and give more strategically than donors who are not in giving circles.
The second report, Dynamics of Hosting Giving Circles, explores why community foundations and other organizations decide to host giving circles, the services they offer, the costs involved, and the benefits and challenges of the relationship. Among other findings, the report highlights that key motivations and benefits for hosts include contributing to a culture of philanthropy in their communities and reaching a more diverse set of donors.
“Giving circles help introduce new donors into the world of philanthropy, and these new findings underscore that trend. It is encouraging to see how giving circles are empowering people of all races, genders, ages and income levels to engage in philanthropy, and that members as well as hosts are experiencing the benefits. The new research can help the sector continue to advance and grow collective giving models to be more effective, sustainable and inclusive,” said Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.
“We are excited to see increased diversity in giving circles, especially the inclusion of more people of color. 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,” added Julia L. Carboni, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
Key findings from Giving Circle Membership: How Collective Giving Impacts Donors include:
- Giving circle members tend to leverage their networks more strategically for philanthropic advice. Their philanthropic networks are also more diverse in terms of race, religion, and socioeconomic status than the networks of non-members.
- Established giving circle members (those who have been members for at least one year) tend to be older, white, higher income, and married, while newer members (less than one year) tend to be more diverse in terms of age, income and race (these differences are even more pronounced when comparing new members to 5+ year members). In particular, Latinx participation is more prevalent in newer giving circles.
- Motivations also differ for established members and new members, with the former citing the ability to leverage gifts and “fun” as primary reasons for participation, and the latter more focused on the opportunity to engage more deeply on a cause or issue(s).
- The report affirms previous research that giving circle members give more, give more strategically and proactively, give to a wider array of organizations, volunteer more, and are more likely to engage in civic activity.
Key findings from Dynamics of Hosting Giving Circles include:
- Contributing to a culture of philanthropy in their communities is the top reason that hosts are motivated to start or support a giving circle. Reaching new donors (81 percent) and a more diverse set of donors (74 percent) were also top-cited reasons. The actual benefits of hosting giving circles align with, and exceed, these motivations for hosting.
- Host organizations offer a range of services to giving circles. The most fundamental service is providing 501(c)(3) status to giving circles to allow tax-deductible contributions; other top services offered include providing communications support, organizing educational opportunities for members and soliciting proposals from potential grantees.
- Hosts cited staff time required, differences in expectations between the giving circle and host, and covering costs as the biggest challenges associated with hosting giving circles.
View the full reports and infographic summaries
This research was conducted as a follow-up to a 2017 report focused on the scope and scale of giving circles in the United States. The studies were funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, via the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
About the Collective Giving Research Group (CGRG)
The Collective Giving Research Group (CGRG) is a research collaborative launched in 2015 to explore and understand the dynamics of giving circles and other forms of collective giving today. Founding members of the CGRG are Jessica Bearman (Bearman Consulting); Julia L. Carboni, Ph.D. (Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University); Angela Eikenberry, Ph.D. (School of Public Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha); and Jason Franklin, Ph.D. (Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy, Grand Valley State University).
About the Women’s Philanthropy Institute
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) is part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. WPI increases understanding of women’s philanthropy through rigorous research and education, interpreting and sharing these insights broadly to improve philanthropy. By addressing significant and groundbreaking research questions and translating that research into increased understanding and improvements in practice, WPI helps to leverage new and expanded resources for the common good.
About the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy or “Like” us on Facebook.
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