Tips for Practical Giving

Where to give, what to ask, and the lowdown on emerging philanthropic trends

This article is part of a package on rethinking charity in the economic crisis. For more, read  Giving When It Hurts ,  Ladling Soup, Raising Hell : Nonprofit insider Robert Egger is out to reform charities from within, and  The Revolution Will Not Be Funded : It’s time to liberate activists from the nonprofit industrial complex .

Giving Circles

One way to boost the impact of a recession-sized donation is to join or establish a giving circle, a group of people who pool contributions to support a common cause—women’s rights, environmental racism, homeless queer youth—and then work together to determine which organization(s) will receive their grants.

“Giving circles in general are more participatory, more collective-minded, and more accessible than traditional philanthropy, which is centered around wealthy individuals’ ‘charitable’ giving,” reports Make/shift (Winter 2009). The magazine profiles the California-based Women of Color Giving Circle, whose 11 members each donate $1,000 a year to the project. The circle then doles out grants to groups that are led by women of color, “whose missions focus on women’s rights, economic justice, financial literacy, and immigrants’ rights; and who have annual budgets under $500,000”—or, as one circle member put it, “We are giving funding to folks who are ‘unfundable.’ ”

The structure of a giving circle is inherently flexible: Its size, the time commitment involved, and the level of formality are completely up to its members. Members of the Women of Color Giving Circle agree to donate several hours of their time each year to the circle, though the group does have two “silent” members who give money but no time. Some circles open a joint bank account to house their collective dollars; others just write individual checks to the circle’s agreed-upon recipient.

It’s important for members to agree upon a circle’s structure, mission, and activities up front to avoid confusion or discord about what’s expected from members, financially or otherwise.

Shannon Baxter
4/7/2012 2:51:09 PM

Fundraising can be a difficult or enjoyable process depending on how you go about it, what type of fundraising you decide to do, and how committed you are to the need you are fundraising for. Choosing how to fundraise is often the most difficult step in the process but not for a lack of fundraising ideas. Fundraising ideas for individuals

On the Issues Magazine_1
2/26/2009 1:07:43 PM

Giving and fundraising in these trying times is more important than ever. On the Issues Magazine currently features an article by Marian Banzhaff, Putting Money Where Our Causes Are, which discusses the need for foundations to support progressive and radical organizations. The article specifically points to many foundations and philanthropy groups that are raising money to give to women's causes, The Women's Funding Network and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, to name just a couple. The article has a forward looking take on how to fund foundations, calling on every citizen to foster a spirit of giving. And she gives tips on how to do it.

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