Over the past two decades, giving circles have exploded in popularity, especially among diverse audiences — across race, gender, and income levels. Collective giving as a concept is not new and certainly not American and there is much to learn about the scope of the global landscape of giving circles. Released in late 2020, Dr. Jason Franklin, along with the Collective Giving Research Group’s latest research study, led research that provides the first look into collective giving around the world. Their findings: 426 giving circles. 42,200 members engaged, and $46 million in grants invested around the world (excluding the U.S.). This is no small feat and is a declaration that there is limitless potential for people-powered collective philanthropy the world round. 

With more than 40,000 global citizens in giving circles, individuals around the world are working in their communities to support and showcase causes they believe in. As Philanthropy Together strives to grow the collective giving movement to 3,000 giving circles around the world by 2025, research shows positive signs as 92% of all giving circles outside of the U.S. were founded within the last decade, and nearly one-third (31%) were founded within the last three years. 

Groups of like-minded people with a community-centered focus promote strength in numbers to further causes that create positive change locally, and as membership grows, their networks expand. Both in the U.S. and globally, the top reasons for participating in giving circles are deeper learning about community issues and networking opportunities

Of the 426 giving circles outside of the U.S. surveyed, 75% were associated with one of five giving circle networks*:

While having the support and resources of larger networks provide added value to giving circles, many circles have to fund administrative costs as well as causes they impact. More than 30% of administrative costs are covered by outside source donation or extra gifts by donors, and 25% by in-kind donations.

In terms of pooling money for grants, 80% of giving circles require a minimum donation. Nearly half of the global giving circles require 100 units of local currency, while 35% and 4% ask for donations more than $100 and $1,000, respectively. Most of the decision-making for administration is made by committees or boards, while majority votes rule for grantmaking.

Trends around what and how circles give reveal that 73% of grants are given to specific services or causes, and of that, the study also shows that two-thirds of global giving circles support local/grassroots community organizations. Top issue areas to receive funding include education, human services, women and girls, and health.

Whether giving to a single cause or many, giving circles shared the top three factors for grantmaking are leaving a strong impact, supporting underfunded populations and aligning interests between recipients and donors.

Funding, however, isn’t the only support. Volunteering, in-kind gifts, technical assistance and fundraising support are other ways giving circles provide aid.

As collective giving continues to grow, changes in giving circles (35%) will continue to happen as the movement evolves and groups seek the most efficient, effective and equitable ways to operate.

From the research and history of giving circles, what has become clear is the significant role an individual “champion” plays in spearheading the start of a giving circle, which, in turn, contributes to the larger vision of democratizing philanthropy.

Though giving circles in the UK and U.S. continue to serve as inspiration and models for collective giving globally, there are some challenges to keeping giving circles in business:

  • lack of time among busy professionals
  • developing a philanthropic mindset
  • balancing visibility/accessibility and “specialness”
  • building membership that reflects full community
  • maintaining momentum
  • NGOs are inexperienced in raising funds.

Because of these potential oppositions, there are two crucial factors in sustaining giving circles: Finding host organizations and the transition of founding leaders.

In efforts to carry the torch for global collective giving onward, the Collective Giving Research Group’s study proposes opportunities for new research topics, such as understanding dynamics of capitalism and colonialism in promoting western philanthropic models; deepening the analysis of differences in giving circles in parts of the world with different philanthropic traditions; and exploring other collective giving models rooted in different traditions and approaches.

Want to join the collective giving movement? Philanthropy Together trains community leaders from around the world to start and host giving circles. All of our virtual programming is available to anyone around the world with materials available in English, Spanish, and German.

Sign up today to learn more about Launchpad For You, a virtual giving circle leadership training where you’ll gain all the tools and tips to start your own giving circle!