The traditional hierarchical structure for philanthropy might mean well – but it’s rooted in patriarchal power and the white supremacy of the ‘white saviour’ who knows best swooping in to tell a community how to spend the donation. The traditional way is also grossly under-serving women and girls, who make up 51 percent of the population, yet organisations that specifically serve these groups only receive 1.9 percent of all philanthropic funding.

It’s time for a shift from this top-down, broken model to a more circular, intersectional, and trust-based model – one that was pioneered by women’s funds and foundations. Giving circles are a clear path to upending the current power dynamics that we’ve seen stunt women’s progress time and time again. They address the current imbalance in power structures while innovating ways to get marginalized genders the capital they need to make lasting social change. Giving circles value collaboration and trust between donors and grassroots organisations, especially those led by women of colour, who are on the ground doing the work, to know what’s best for their community.

So what is a giving circle (GC)? It’s a group of people with shared values who come together to collectively discuss and decide where to make a pooled gift. Say, for example, a 50-person GC planned to have each member volunteer for 10 hours, contribute $1,000, and tap 50 people in their networks to grow awareness. By amplifying the impact through a GC, that would lead to 500 total volunteer hours, $50,000 to invest in worthy causes, and a reach of 2,500 diverse people.

This philanthropic model is democratic, place-based, highly flexible, community-focused, and participant-led. GCs work because they’re an intersectional approach with fierce urgency to support nonprofit partners as well as the communities hit hardest by the disproportionate impacts of economic hardship, broken social systems, lack of access to health services and information, systemic racism, and institutional violence. GCs uplift gender and racial justice together. GCs share power to share solutions. For these reasons, members in our organisation, among others, have increasingly embraced GCs for the past 20+ years. One estimate puts just 50 GCs in existence in 1995; today, there are 2,500, and by 2025, it’s projected to be up to 3,000.

Read the full article about giving circles by Elizabeth Barajas-Román at Alliance Magazine.