For many donors, charitable giving is a private affair fueled by personal passions. However, giving can be even more rewarding—and effective—when you connect with a broader community of donors who share your interests. Channels like giving circles, donor networks and volunteering are great ways to join forces and accomplish even more.
A giving circle is a group of donors who pool their resources and make donations together so they can create greater impact with their collective giving than each could individually. Giving circles can be organized by region or area of interest and have varying degrees of formality. Some are established organizations with hundreds of participants. Others are informal groups with as few as five members pooling together sums in the hundreds. Some require participants to contribute six-figure gifts; others require gifts of only a few hundred dollars.
Generally, group members decide collectively what projects or nonprofits to support, although some larger giving circles have elected officers or committees that make the decisions on behalf of the group.
To join a giving circle, search online to see if there are any established circles related to your area of interest. If there aren’t, you can always start your own with friends or family members. Check the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers for additional resources and information.
Donor networks offer ways for donors to create links with one another, with a focus on sharing information and learning about a chosen area of interest. Joining one can help you get better versed in a given topic and become a more informed donor, and also make you aware of other donors you can collaborate with on a particular project. Some networks also host giving circles or manage a centralized grantmaking fund to which members can contribute.
Donor networks may charge a membership fee for access to the services they offer. They may also ask that all donors who join commit to supporting charities at a certain financial level.
Search online to see if there are any donor networks related to your area of interest. You might also ask for recommendations from a philanthropic advisor or a resource group.
Volunteering allows you to deepen your relationship with a charity or cause you care about, while also creating a social outlet. It connects you to the impact of the work the nonprofit does in a very personal, hands-on way. Volunteering can give you the chance to share the valuable skills you’ve developed over the course of your career—or to try something completely new. It can also be an opportunity for family members and friends to do good together.
Formal volunteer opportunities, ranging from board service to packaging up meals at a food bank, exist at most organizations, and informal opportunities exist as well. Advocacy, fundraising assistance, professional services, and project management can be extremely valuable contributions to a nonprofit’s operations and also provide a way to make use of your professional skills and networks. And for those with limited time, many nonprofits look for volunteers who can assist on a project-by-project basis.
Finding volunteer opportunities is as simple as contacting an organization and asking how you can help. Describe your skills and interests and see if there’s a related project that either already exists or that you could help start. Make sure to discuss how many hours you can commit, and for more formal opportunities, such as serving on a board, find out if there are any additional expectations around financial support.
Do more, together
Whatever causes or charities you support, involving others can result in more effective and more rewarding giving. Giving circles, donor networks, and volunteering provide ways to build relationships, get more informed, make more of a difference for those who need it most—and simply to make giving much more fun.