Charity Creates a Searchable Directory of Giving Circles
Philanthropy Together, a year-old nonprofit that supports, trains, and launches giving circles worldwide, rolled out a new global directory of giving circles Wednesday. The directory is searchable by cause and location and housed on Grapevine, a digital hub for giving circles to make donations and find members. A similar database of the few hundred giving circles that donate through the platform already existed on Grapevine, but the partnership with Philanthropy Together expanded that number to more than 2,
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Philanthropy Together, a year-old nonprofit that supports, trains, and launches giving circles worldwide, rolled out a new global directory of giving circles Wednesday. The directory is searchable by cause and location and housed on Grapevine, a digital hub for giving circles to make donations and find members. A similar database of the few hundred giving circles that donate through the platform already existed on Grapevine, but the partnership with Philanthropy Together expanded that number to more than 2,150.
Individuals with shared values have long come together in giving circles to pool their resources and champion causes. And Sara Lomelin, executive director of Philanthropy Together, is a longtime believer in giving circles’ potential to activate often overlooked donors who are women and people of color. Previously, she founded the Latino Giving Circle Network, the nation’s largest association of Latino donors, at the Latino Community Foundation in San Francisco. As she leads Philanthropy Together, diversity, equity, and inclusion are her North Star.
“Women and Bipoc folks, they see themselves in our vision and our work and our values,” Lomelin says. “We wanted to build this party that we all wanted to join.”
Philanthropy Together hopes the directory will better tally the number of these groups and formally measure the funds they’re raising. The database could also be a resource for professional fundraisers seeking to connect with new groups of donors.
In their database profiles, giving circles will be able to indicate whether they’re accepting new members and list the groups they’ve financially supported, says Lomelin. “What we want is really to highlight all these initiatives at small grassroots nonprofits,” she said.
Philanthropy Together was founded by a group of giving-circle leaders last year, thanks to a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It aims to expand the number of giving circles to 3,000 globally by 2025. Philanthropy Together wants to see 350,000 people contributing $1 billion over five years to philanthropic efforts through giving circles. Today, an estimated 150,000 donors do so.
A 2018 report from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that new giving-circle members were younger and more racially diverse than long-time giving-circle donors. Shared values, educational presentations, and collective decision making are essential to giving circles and make them a useful gateway into philanthropy for new donors, says Lomelin.
Philanthropy Together developed training programs for community foundations and individuals who want to host or launch a giving circle. To date, 208 people across 12 countries have participated in the programs. Among those trained, 80 percent are women, and 58 percent are people of color.
Muhi Khwaja, director of development and philanthropy at the American Muslim Community Foundation, took Philanthropy Together’s training for community foundations and other giving-circle hosts. While his foundation previously administered funds raised by six giving circles, it’s added two more giving circles to the fold since he took the training.
“Having a support group of organizations doing the same thing, that’s been really helpful,” says Khwaja.
In the case of the American Muslim Community Foundation, it helps that supporters can start by connecting over a shared faith before launching giving circles focused on other identities and causes, Khwaja says. “Community foundations have a prime opportunity to host giving circles and allow their respective communities to be more strategic with how they give,” he says.
In May, Philanthropy Together is convening a monthlong virtual summit featuring panel discussions, workshops, and networking sessions. Philanthropy experts and giving-circle leaders will discuss best practices for collective giving and how to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in giving circles, among other topics.
At Philanthropy Together, Lomelin is eager to show that even people who contribute small sums are philanthropists. “Big philanthropy has a lot of assumptions,” she says. “In giving circles, we don’t assume who can give and who cannot.”