new study on Asian American giving circles

December 15, 2008

Philanthropy can be defined as the giving of time, talent, and finances for human welfare and advancement. Giving circles are a growing method for philanthropy in the Asian American community. AsianAmericanGiving.com describes it as:

A giving circle is a type of pooled fund (or social investment fund) where members come together and pool their resources to support a cause. Members usually have a common interest, such as shared histories or similar ethnic backgrounds or cultures. Each member contributes a certain amount of funds to the circle. The idea is that by pooling funds, they can make a bigger impact on a project.

Giving circles are flexible in that they allow for a range of giving styles, philosopy of giving, focus area, and purpose. They also have a social aspect to them and allows for networking and comaderie. In the process, members learn about philanthropy, community issues, funding, and grant-making. Funds are usually held by a community foundation or other public charity which also provides administrative services to the circle.

A giving circle make sense if you have a group of folks who have similar interests and values. The vehicle is a great introduction to personal philanthropy and strategic team decision-making. The process also helps members learn how to evaluate programs and impact.

A new study, Asian American Giving Circles: Building Bridges Between Philanthropy and Our Communities, was presented at the 37th Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) Conference this November in Philadelphia by Andrew T. Ho, of Council on Foundations. This research paper answers questions like, “Are they different than any other circles and if so, how are they distinctive? What are some of the experiences in starting a giving circle in ethnic communities?

AsianAmericanGiving.com summarizes the study’s highlights:

The research paper shows that these Asian American giving circles enjoyed enthusiastic responses from community organizations. They also faced many common challenges, including volunteers’ lack of time to devote to building the giving circle, leadership succession, attracting members not already familiar with philanthropy, and educating members about philanthropy. Asian American giving circles, as a vehicle for philanthropy, are effective for bridging philanthropy to the community. The potential for increased Asian American philanthropy is clear from demographic trends, but tapping into this potential remains elusive.

The report Asian American Giving Circles: Building Bridges Between Philanthropy and Our Communities can be downloaded here, along with fact sheet, study summary, and press release. cf. list of Asian American giving circles, AsianNextGen – a young professionals group engaging in high impact philanthropy

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