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NextGen Global Giving Circle: A Case Study

March 18, 2020

As the ways in which we approach philanthropy change, the fundraising landscape continues to change, too. Donors are realizing that all donations, large or small, especially when pooled together, make a difference. But for the millennial generation, which was raised amidst an influx of information and calls to action, choosing where to give their resources can seem especially daunting. This, paired with the simultaneous surges of digital engagement and social isolation, has millennials looking for ways to make an impact and get connected.

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Responding to this, OLAM, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and Amplifier came together to create a global pop-up giving circle for the NextGen community in Atlanta. 30 young adults gathered to hear directly from 7 OLAM partner organizations, all Jewish and Israeli organizations, that work with vulnerable populations in developing countries. With a contribution of $50 per attendee and a generous anonymous gift from an outside donor, the group gave away over $7,000 in one evening.

Creating new platforms of giving comes with its challenges. At this pop-up giving circle, all of the organizations that the participants were choosing from would be present. We did not want the participants to feel uncomfortable having representatives from the possible recipient organizations in the room. We thought it may hinder the conversations between the participants as they discovered and evaluated the organizations. Further, OLAM did not want to create competition amongst their partner organizations, as OLAM fosters a community of support and collaboration.

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Weighing these challenges, we committed to addressing them head-on by creating a sense of learning, not competition. Every organization was awarded an honorarium of $150, while the top three organizations, Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, Tevel B’Tzedek and IsraAID received $3,000, $1,500 and $500, respectively.

As the event began, our hesitations quickly waned and an evening of dialogue, learning and inspiration transpired. Here are the lessons learned from our global pop-up giving circle:

  • Start social. The first 45 minutes were spent eating and, yes, drinking together. This created a casual and comfortable environment that also acted as an equalizer between participants and grantee organizations, and provided an opportunity for our partner organizations to personally connect with a new pool of potential donors.
  • Collective donations go further. By harnessing their collective power, participants were able to increase their impact manyfold.
  • Face-time with organizations helps participants. Participants were able to ask clarifying questions about the organizations’ work, budgets, approach and operations. Sitting with someone from the organization lifted information from a page to life, through personal stories, passions and dialogue.
  • Giving circles expose organizations to new audiences and new ways to gain support. OLAM’s partners operate in some of the most extreme situations - from offering medical assistance to refugees on the shorelines of Greece to offering literacy programs in rural Nepal. They have expertise, passion and commitment to improving the world, but they often have insufficient resources, funding, and/or the ability to share their work with the greater Jewish community. Most of OLAM’s partners that were present had never experienced a giving circle before. This experience exposed them to a new way to engage donors and new audiences in their work.

Jill Radwin of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, the night’s top winner, remarked, “It was such an honor to take part in the giving circle and to meet a group of people so clearly passionate about supporting global causes. We were beyond thrilled to be chosen as a recipient of the collective funds. This money will cover more than half the cost of a student to attend the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village for an entire year - that means everything from three nutritious meals per day to health insurance to books and clothes.”

In experimenting with bringing donors and their potential grantees face-to-face, we learned that this innovative way of engaging millennials in collaborative philanthropy can be successful and fun, when done right.