IMG_6769You’ve tried the book club, but the guilt of not finishing the book was too much. Ladies Night Out was a great idea but all the small talk just didn’t do it for you. Volunteering in the community has been great but you don’t always have the time commitment and you would like to make a greater contribution. What about a Giving Circle?

Being part of a Giving Circle is an active form of philanthropy. You are moving past the point of responding to solicitations from not for profit organizations to getting actively involved in making a difference in your community by leveraging your donation with a group of like-minded people.

Here are 10 considerations for setting up your own Giving Circle.

  1. How big is the circle going to be? Small—less than 20 people; Medium 20-50 people; or Large—greater than 50 participants.
  2. What structure do you want to have? Event based format with no consistent members; Informal structure with consistent members but no committees; Formal structure with consistent members and committees.
  3. What is the mission? Determine what are the common goals that the group wants to achieve and where do the members want to make a difference.
  4. What do you want your financial commitment level and frequency to be? Contributions can be as small as $20 in an event based structure or $20,000 for annual donation. All donors can be required to make the same gift or the contributions could be done on a tiered membership level.
  5. What level of commitment do you desire from your participants? Participants may be asked to commit for one event or several years. Also, depending on your structure, participation may be required for meetings, serving on a committee or the steering committee.
  6. Where will the money be held? The money may come from the donors directly at the time of the grant or they could be held in a separate bank account. Alternatively, the money could be held with a host organization such as a public foundation, donor-advised fund or the Giving Circle can become an independent 501c(3).
  7. How is the circle to be administered? The circle may be run strictly by volunteers or hire a staff person or a combination of the two.
  8. How are the circle’s operations funded? Operations can be funded by the volunteers or the donors can pay an additional fee or percentage towards the overhead. Alternatively, outside gifts, grants or in-kind donations can be accepted towards the operational costs.
  9. What will be the grant-making priorities? You can support one single issue in your community or support multiple issues locally, nationally and / or internationally. Grants can be made biannually, annually or more frequently. You can accept grant requests or make unsolicited donations to organizations that your circle is interested in. You might want to conduct site visits to local organizations or request additional information from institutions that are larger and not local.
  10. What is the impact of your giving? Be sure to step back and ensure that your circle is still aligned with the group’s mission. Also, that you are receiving satisfaction and making a difference for the work you are doing.

Come up with a name that reflects the interests of the members, the mission of the group or the format of the circle. Even though you are doing some important work with your Giving Circle, you can still have fun and still feel rewarded for your work.

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