Originally posted on eJewishPhilanthropy.com
This article is Part 3 in a series about giving circles. (Don’t forget to check out Part 1 & Part 2 .) Giving circles, groups who pool donations and decide together which causes to support, are a powerful tool for providing anyone – at any age, in any place, at any giving level – with access to an exciting, intentional giving experience. Giving circle members learn anddo something about the issues that mean the most to them within their community of friends, family, fellow program alumni – anyone.
As part of our effort to expand and strengthen giving circles in the Jewish community, Amplifier: The Jewish Giving Circle Movement is proud to present this seven-part series to help you start and sustain a giving circle inspired by Jewish values. This series draws upon Amplifier’s Resource Library and the experiences of dozens of giving circles already in the Amplifier network.
Part 3 – Building Your Very Own Giving Circle
You’ve decided to start a giving circle – great! You and your group are about to embark on an exciting journey. You’ll do some real good in the world while learning a great deal, connecting with incredible people, and having a lot of fun.
The most successful circles are those that spend time at the beginning thinking through some of the questions, issues and opportunities that will come up throughout their time together.
Although some circles go through just one grant cycle together, others last for years. Investing some time at the outset in thinking through logistics, group values, and the grantmaking process will generate great benefits over the life of your circle.
First things first: as you’re getting your circle off the ground (or anytime throughout your circle’s experience), please reach out to the Amplifier team for help. We’re happy to give advice and to connect you with other people who can help you on your way. We’ll also help you set up a giving circle profile on the Amplifier site so you can use the tools we’ve developed to help you manage your circle and your grantmaking process. (Check out this video for an overview.)
Now, let’s get started. In Giving Circle Startup Questions, we lay out some of the initial questions you might want to consider even before you gather people together. Who makes the final decisions is up to you: in some circles, the founder(s) or organizational hosts figure out the answers to some or all of these questions before the circle launches; in others, the decision-making is done by the group once it gathers. Giving Circle Building Blocks walks you through how to make decisions about logistics, group values, and grant focus areas in group contexts.
Some initial questions to consider:
One rule of thumb to keep in mind as you consider these questions is that the most successful circles are those that best match the goals and the assets (financial, social, intellectual, or otherwise) of their members.
Truly great giving circles also respect the time and resources of grant applicants and recipients, and they work to balance members’ interests and needs with the needs of the organizations and communities the circle supports.
Giving circles are infinitely customizable: each will have a different combination of answers to the questions above. But there is some advice that we can offer to all circles, drawn from the experience of the many circles in the Amplifier network:
Recruit people who are fans of the leverage that comes from group decision-making.
Giving circles take time, and they’re worth it.
Think about your circle’s expenses.
Most importantly: stay humble, respect everyone’s time, and celebrate!
There are now dozens of people in the Amplifier network who have started giving circles on their own, with their friends, with their families, in alumni networks, and at organizations like synagogues, JCCs, Federations, and community foundations. Reach out to us and we’ll be happy to connect you to the coaching, resources, and tools you need to launch a successful giving circle.
And stay tuned for the next installment in this series – Great Grantmaking for Giving Circles.