Giving Circle Example

14 07 2009

By: Hannah Kim

In her report for the Forum of Regional Association of Grantmakers “More Giving Together: The Growth and Impact of Giving Circles and Shared Giving”, Jessica E. Bearman defines a giving circle in the following manner:

“A giving circle is formed when individuals come together and pool their dollars, decide together where to give the money (and other resources such as volunteer time), and learn together about their community and philanthropy.” (p.1)

Birmingham Change FundBearman adds that “no giving circle looks or acts exactly like another” (p.1). One particular example is the Birmingham Change Fund, formed in 2005 by a Ford Foundation Program Officer “to identify, cultivate and raise resources that improve the quality of life for African-Americans living in the Birmingham region” (

For instance, this giving circle of 20 or so members has helped to increase financial planning knowledge among its community by supporting the 2005 and 2006 Financial Discovery Forum.

Partnership Network

It seems that the Birmingham Change Fund also values strategic partnerships highly. For instance, it raised $2,000 for adult and paediatric AIDS research by partnering with the Birmingham Children’s Hospital to host a “party with a purpose” on National Philanthropy Day.

The Birmingham Change Fund also works closely with HindSight Consulting on researching ways in which young urban African Americans donate their talents, time, and dollars to improve their communities. The ultimate goal of this partnership is to further develop African American giving circles.

The partnership with HindSight Consulting to conduct such market research shows that, in order to enhance sustainability, giving circles—as small as they may be—must also take much of the proactive and strategic approach that is mandatory among for-profit businesses.




4 responses

23 07 2009

Very interesting concept. You mention that in this example the group raised $2,000. Do you think this is too small scale to solve the MASSIVE homelessness problem in Vancouver? Also, how do you think the current state of the economy will affect your giving circle model?

Keep blogging, great work.

24 07 2009
Hannah Kim

Hello, thank you for your comment. 🙂

The giving circles in our Homeless Sponsorship Model would definitely need to raise much more than $2,000 each to provide a unit of supported housing for the homeless in Metro Vancouver. For instance, the investment giving circle would need about $50,000 in total for a down payment on one apartment suite in the Tri-Cities. A donation giving circle would need to raise a few hundred dollars PER MONTH to subsidize rent for a homeless client. Therefore, the aim of our model is to LOOK FOR investors and donors who are willing to contribute the above amounts of funds. If this small pilot project succeeds in the Tri-Cities, we hope that more and more investors and donors will be attracted into giving circles that then help to resolve homelessness on a larger scale in Metro Vancouver.

Also, the giving circle model is actually a way to make philanthropy MORE appealing in today’s economy. It is difficult for any one philanthropist on his/her own to donate money for a supported housing unit. With a giving circle, the investors/donors are sharing the costs and risks with like-minded people.

I hope that answers your questions. 🙂

Thank you,

27 07 2009

I really like the idea of “giving cicle”. It might not be easy to find sponsors or any organization to donate huge amount of money to your project, but I do think things will be built up as long as you have the passion and insistent to your believe and ideas.

27 07 2009
Hannah Kim

Hi Natalie, thanks for your comment.

While $10,000 per person may seem like a very high amount for one giving circle member to contribute (in the investment model), we would really be looking for people to whom $10,000 represents a relatively small portion of their overall investment portfolio. A person who has a lot of experience in property investments is one such example. When five such investors are gathered into each investment giving circle, the effect is the potential to help two to three homeless people become self-sustainable.

Thanks again for your insight, and I hope you enjoy reading our other posts as well. 🙂


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