As the world faces an unprecedented health pandemic, giving circles and collective giving groups across the country are stepping up and rapidly responding to the needs of their local communities using their combined dollars and advocacy efforts. Philanthropy Together virtually brought together over 50 leaders from across the collective giving movement to understand the emerging strategies they are using to strengthen and sustain the grassroots leadership of local nonprofits. Representing giving circles and grassroots community foundations from across the country, these leaders described the urgent needs and rich opportunities to activate the giving movement for equitable, effective philanthropy in the uncertainty of COVID-19. Here’s what giving circle networks around the country are doing in this moment:

Shortening Timelines

Muhi Khwaja, the co-founder of the American Muslim Community Foundation (AMCF), shared about donors who fast-tracked their grants timelines to quickly move $80,000 dollars across two projects instead of the single grant they had planned. AMCF is a foundation that creates donor funds and giving circles, distributed grants, and builds endowments for the American Muslim community.

Supporting Members in Their Networks

Marsha Morgan, chair of the Community Investment Network (CIN), encouraged several touch points to check on members, like its virtual leadership training and Wednesday webinars for college students that are interested in philanthropy. CIN is a national network of giving circles supporting philanthropists of color, with a large African American membership. As many CIN members are entrepreneurs who were deeply impacted by COVID, Morgan announced the launch of a social awareness campaign that provides financial resources for small businesses and supports donor-led local service work like matching emergency aid grants, distributing hygiene products, supporting incarcerated women, and offering transportation for essential workers.

Launching Local Rapid Response Funds

Amber Gonzalez-Vargas, senior program officer at the Latino Community Foundation - an organization dedicated to unleashing the civic and economic power of Latinos -  shared their Love Not Fear Fund to support the families of California’s Inland Empire and Central Valley. The fund has raised more than $500,000 and LCF’s Latino Giving Circle Network, with its 23 giving circles and more than 500 members, has moved $30,000 dollars to the fund with more circles continuing to participate. Gonzalez-Vargas said that the fund shows “what philanthropy is supposed to be like. Love for the people and supporting the people.”

Reimagining Systems for a Just World

Social Venture Partners International cultivates effective philanthropists, strengthens nonprofits, and invests in collaborative solutions and has 44 affiliates around the globe. Chief Executive Officer Sudha Nandagopal explained that SVPI’s affiliates are helping lift up the vulnerabilities of communities impacted by oppressive systems and, in the long-term, building toward resilience. Nandagopal goes more in depth on steps we can all take to strengthen our communities in her compelling post on Giving Compass, Five Ways Donors Can Act Now For A More Just Post- Pandemic World.

Supporting the Shift to Virtual

Sasha Raskin-Yin, program director for Amplifier, introduced the organization’s support for giving circles as a way to grow philanthropy that’s inspired by Jewish values. It's COVID giving guide includes virtual giving trainings, a COVID giving guide webinar, and curated lists of organizations. askin-Yin connected Amplifier’s COVID response resources to their objective that positive, powerful change can happen through giving.

100 Who Care Alliance is also leaning into technology to provide resources, ideas, and tools to its giving communities. Providing premium Zoom access and hosting “Get to Know Zoom” sessions were among the popular techniques mentioned by Traci Richards to help their hundreds of collective giving groups move their operations online.

Joel Jaquez, manager of partnership at Learning by Giving Foundation, contributes to the mission to help educate and inspire young people to become effective philanthropists. Learning by Giving opened up free access to their app: Learn to Give. On this app, digital giving clubs are available to everyone in the network. This connects users to resources, tips and tools on philanthropy, and how to increase impact. Learning by Giving also plans to move more capital across the college network for students to give locally.

Dismantling Xenophobia

Brandon Hadi of the Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) raised the issue of anti-Asian racism that is bubbling up across the country, and the network's open letter to philanthropy to cure viral racism. Calling on the philanthropy community to take action against the uptick in anti-Asian hostility, dozens of organizations have signed on and offered their support. AAPIP’s giving circles are also organizing rapid relief funds to address the needs of small businesses and workers on the frontlines. Many more giving circles in the AAPIP network are hopeful that the sector will help address this issue through giving.

Showcasing Grantees

Highlighting Philanos’ network of 78 women’s giving circles, funds, and foundations, Chair Paula Liang shared how many affiliates in the network are curating grantee lists and using social media to gain awareness and funding and creating Showcase Funds. Liang also lifted up calls from women in the sector to use trust-based philanthropy principles: “unrestrict the money, push the money forward, and eliminate red tape.” More ideas are posted on Philanos' discussion forum.

Want to Take Action? Create a Showcase Fund of your Grantees

Philanthropy Together and Grapevine partnered to enable any giving circle to set up a Showcase Fund: A curated donate-able list of a giving circles' past grantees to help raise additional funding and awareness.


What is your giving circle doing in response to COVID-19? Let us know over email ( or on Twitter @Phil_Together.