Beeston’s Blog: 5 Things you should know about Giving Circles

Author and Philanthropy Advisor, Emma Beeston of the Emma Beeston Consultancy has kindly provided the following blog on Giving Circles. 

A Giving Circle is where a group of like-minded people with shared values come together to collectively discuss and decide where to make a pooled gift. Giving Circles often provide support through their funding, but they also build awareness, volunteering, become board members and more. Individuals multiply their impact and knowledge, have fun, and connect with their local community.

You can read more of Emma’s blogs on the Insights page of her website, while her excellent book, “Advising Philanthropists – Principles and Practice“, written with Beth Breeze, is available for sale on the Directory of Social Change website and Amazon.

5 things you should know about Giving Circlesby Emma Beeston 

“Whilst my day job is advising wealthy people on their giving, I firmly believe that philanthropy is for everyone. Relatively small donations from ordinary people fuels our voluntary sector – in CAF’s latest report on UK giving, 59% of people gave money or sponsored someone and the typical donation was £20 per month.  Combined, this giving contributed £12.7 billion in 2022. It is this power in pooling resources that led to me co-founding a Giving Circle, Bath Women’s Fund, with the wonderful Isobel Michael.

“Giving Circles are a type of collective giving where a group of people come together and pool their donations. They also decide together where that money goes. Giving Circles have a social and learning element to them – it is more than just giving. Support is given to multiple groups – so this is not a fundraising circle for one organisation, which also exist.

“Here are my top 5 things you should know about giving circles:

1. They are popular … elsewhere

Giving Circles are a growing global movement and very popular in America and Asia. Recent data (but only for the US and for all types of collective giving) found that more than 370,000 individual philanthropists in nearly 4,000 separate groups moved over $3.1 billion to non-profits between 2017 and 2023 and estimates that these numbers are all primed to double again in the next five years. There are hardly any in the UK (shout out to our friends at Cornwall Women’s Fund).

2. They bring additional funds to the sector

The research shows that giving circles do not shift money away from other causes but instead provide additional funds and bring new people into philanthropy.

3. They expand who gets funded

Because the groups are often ‘by and for’ the community, they tend to understand local issues and support more community-led and marginalised groups.

4. They come in all shapes and sizes

At Bath Women’s Fund our members typically give £20 per month. There are informal groups where 500 people give £1 per week or structured set ups where members contribute thousands.

5. They are good for you

We all know that giving makes you feel better. So how much better when you do it with others? At a time when it is easy to feel helpless and hopeless in the face of the world’s problems, it is powerful to take action and be amongst others who want to do their bit too.

“Isobel and I delivered a webinar in April as part of our mission to see more giving circles in the UK. You can watch it here: https://www.bathwomensfund.org.uk/events/giving-circles-webinar.

“If you are interested in setting up your own Giving Circle there are also lots of resources here: https://philanthropytogether.org/ and you can also get in touch with your questions”.

Image: Emma Beeston of the Emma Beeston Consultancy, seen here with her recent book “Advising Philanthropists: Principles and Practice“.