A new report from leading researchers on charitable giving explores how this growing trend in collective giving is fostering diversity in philanthropy
Collective giving groups, often known as giving circles, have tripled in number since 2007, becoming an increasingly popular way for donors from a diverse array of backgrounds to support charitable organizations or projects of mutual interest, according to new research released today.
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.
The Collective Giving Research Group (CGRG), with support from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI), released the findings of a new study on giving circles in the United States. The report, The Landscape of Giving Circles/Collective Giving Groups in the U.S.—2016, investigates the current scope and scale of collective giving groups in the United States to understand their impact on donor giving and civic engagement.
The study was conducted by a team of four researchers: Jessica Bearman of Bearman Consulting, Dr. Julia Carboni of Syracuse University, Dr. Angela Eikenberry of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Dr. Jason Franklin of the Johnson Center for Philanthropy. The study was 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.
Giving circles have engaged at least 150,000 people in all 50 states and given as much as $1.29 billion since their inception, the study found. A majority of giving circles are created around a particular identity—including groups based on gender, race, age and religion. Further, giving circles have become more inclusive of income levels as the average and most frequent amount given by individual donors may be decreasing, while total dollars donated by giving circles are increasing.
“Giving circles are a powerful tool to democratize and diversify philanthropy, engage new donors and increase local giving,” said CGRG member Jason Franklin, Ph.D., W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. “This research sheds critically needed new light on this popular form of collective giving. In a time when philanthropy is increasingly focused on billionaires’ giving, this research is an important reminder that everyday givers are coming together and pooling their resources to make a difference in their communities and for the issues they care about.”
Angela Eikenberry, Ph.D., CGRG member and David C. Scott Diamond Alumni Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Nebraska at Omaha said, “Not only are giving circles engaging thousands of donors to give more and better, they are engaging more diverse communities in philanthropy. Almost half of all circles today are women’s circles and our research shows significant growth in Jewish, Asian/Pacific Islander, African-American and Latino/a circles in the past decade.”
More details on the key findings include:
• Collaborative giving is becoming more inclusive with donors from a wide range of income levels.
Giving circles have always provided avenues for those without substantial means to participate in significant giving, but this latest study suggests that these groups now attract members from a wider range of income levels. Today, minimum dollar amounts required for participation range from less than $20 to $2 million, and the average donation amount was found to be $1,312 – compared to $2,809 in 2007.
• Identity-based groups make up 60 percent of giving circles and drive much of the growth in collaborative giving.
Giving circles attract many types of people, including those who may not typically engage in institutional philanthropy. Most groups are formed around a specific identity including groups based on gender, race, age and religion.
• Women dominate giving circle membership, making up 70 percent of all members. This collective model of giving is particularly popular among women. While men have a presence in 66 percent of giving circles, they are only the majority of members in 7.5 percent of groups.
• Giving circles are connected to each other and to philanthropy.
Networks of giving circles have emerged since 2007, with 25 networks now in existence. Today, 45 percent of identified giving circles participate in a network or alliance group. Community foundations, corporate partners and other outside donors view these collective giving groups as an effective way to give, with 52 percent of giving circles receiving additional funds or grants from these sources.
This new study is a significant contribution to ongoing efforts to understand the changing face of charitable giving and how to harness the trends in philanthropy to encourage more giving by all. These findings provide strong evidence that giving circles are an increasingly significant philanthropic force, engaging a greater diversity of donors, including women, people of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, and donors of all wealth levels.
“This study documents that the philanthropic landscape is rapidly expanding to include a more diverse group of donors,” said Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute and the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “We see that women from different identity groups and backgrounds continue to come together and pool their resources for greater impact in their community. Communities can benefit greatly by recognizing and drawing on the power of these groups.”
The Landscape of Giving Circles/Collective Giving Groups in the U.S.—2016 is being released in conjunction with the first-ever summit for giving circle networks, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The landscape scan is the first of a three-part inquiry, which also includes research related to the impact of participation in giving circles on members’ giving and civic engagement, and a study of the relationships between giving circles and their hosting organizations. Initial findings from the other two studies are included in The State of Giving Circles Today: Overview of New Research Findings.
Information from this research will enable community foundations and other philanthropic intermediaries to better understand the degree to which collective giving approaches might affect donors, hosts and beneficiaries. It will also offer insight for donors, hosts and networks interested in starting or managing giving circles.
About the Collective Giving Research Group
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, and co-authors of the above mentioned report, are Jessica Bearman (Bearman Consulting); Julia 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).
Follow the conversation on Twitter @johnsoncenter and @WPIinsights. “Like” us on Facebook: Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Women’s Philanthropy Institute