Giving Collectively

December 7, 2002

(excerpt from Vol. 6, No. 4, Fall 2001, Family Matters)

If you would rather structure your own collaborative, organize a giving circle among your colleagues and friends who share a common interest. Giving circles (also called collectives) offer family foundation members a hands-on giving opportunity– outside their foundation. A giving circle is a pooled fund established by more than one donor for joint-decision grantmaking and funding a common issue. Giving circles vary in size, structure, and charitable focus. Some are very informal– nothing more than a group of friends coming together once a year to decide where their holiday donations will go. Others may have hundreds of members who meet monthly, and contribute thousands of dollars for a mission they care deeply about.

According to Siobhan O’Riordian, Director of Giving New England, giving circles “are an amazing way for people to learn about and/or practice philanthropy in a safe, collective environment. They have a broad-base appeal because of their cooperative nature.” With the help of O’Riordan, Alison Goldberg of the Goldberg Foundation in Massachusetts helped organize a giving circle. As a trustee of a new family foundation, Goldberg wanted to connect with other young women exploring philanthropy. The circle comprises 15 women who share an interest in work that addresses children in poverty and education. There is no minimum contribution; in fact, Goldberg explains, members of the group have drastically different access to money. Each member makes an anonymous contribution to one of two treasurers, who then deposits the money into a shared account.

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