“Class is the way in which we are perceived in society based on our economic and social status … It's also about much more than just wealth and economic and social status that encompasses the intersections of all of our identities. It shapes our perception of self, community, and society and is an important thing for us to examine as we look at the collective giving movement.” -Moderator, Alyssa Wright, Wright Collective

During the session, How Does One's Class Background Impact the Giving Circle Experience? at the 2022 We Give Summit, Sarah DeLuca, money and philanthropy coach at Move Money Shift Power, Nicole Castillo, nonprofit consultant at Page Consulting, LLC, and Abraham Lateiner at Community Change Inc., discussed how class background shapes giving and how donors can best navigate these dynamics within giving circles. Here are several takeaways from the conversation:

Anyone can be a philanthropist. Make sure you democratize your giving circle. It’s important to get to know your fellow philanthropists, treat all donors in the giving circle the same, and don’t make assumptions about others’ giving backgrounds. Take into account everyone’s giving and meet them where they are in the collaborative process.

Castillo described her experience donating to a nonprofit through a giving circle aimed at young donors.

“We found out that based on the giving history of other donors for the organization that many of the young philanthropists who were working-class folks, were donating at the same rate as elected officials or prominent people in the community … I think the assumption that we give based off of our values is one that really could be seized.”

Show up to conversations with humility and sincerity about your privilege in giving circles. Prioritize learning and listening to other donors and the communities you’re serving. Think about how you’re using the resources that you have access to and focus on giving in a collaborative way, rather than by yourself. Interrogating your own biases and understanding your privilege can help you start from a meaningful place when participating in giving circles.

DeLuca acknowledged her privilege as a white woman in philanthropy and how it can be used for good.

“What I've come to realize about myself is putting ownership over the place that I hold in the world ... I am able to say what other people are thinking that maybe don't feel brave enough or comfortable enough to say because I know I have the safety net of what I look like.”

Trust and relationship building are essential. Building relationships both within your giving circle and with organizations and communities outside the giving circle is important for meaningful social change. Be proximate to the communities you wish to serve. 

Lateiner noted that donors must take the time to build authentic connections if they truly want to achieve social change.

“There is no substitute for actual relationships...In my experience, the most efficient way to make significant, lasting change is to form relationships with people … I think it's inefficient when we start moving right for certain goals and metrics without consulting anyone … We have to go slow and relationships are how we do it.”  

In building relationships between giving circle members, Deluca adds, “Move at the speed of trust. It’s going to take time to build an intentionally cross-class space, and to build a giving circle in the first place … be open and transparent to deepen those relationships.”