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Making philanthropy fun is a good reason to gather friends and combine donations

Posted on Dec 13, 2021 by

Giving circles are gaining in popularity

by Maureen Wallenfang, Women’s Fund Volunteer

The Women for Health Giving Circle meets every August in Appleton. Many in the giving circle have known each other professionally for more than a decade, and their combined donations have added up to thousands of dollars.

If your New Year’s resolutions include reconnecting with friends and making the community a better place, there’s a way to do both in one fell swoop.

Creating your own giving circle can achieve both goals simultaneously.

A giving circle is a group of people who gather to socialize – in person or virtually – and at the same time commit to placing money into a pool to donate, as a group, to a worthy cause. Pooling money gives more oomph and allows the group to have greater community impact.

Plus, it makes philanthropy fun.

“We’re friends, and this keeps us together and lets us support other women,” said Beth Davis, member of the Women for Health Giving Circle at the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region, going strong since 2013. All members of the circle agree to pitch in more than $350 a year.

More giving circles have formed in recent years, and the donation amounts very. “Giving circles are starting to pop up as a way for individuals to have greater impact by pooling their donations, and it gives individual donors a chance to participate, even if it’s $5 or $10,” said Julie Keller, executive director of the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region, a nonprofit organization that manages giving circle funds.

The number of giving circles in the U.S. tripled between 2007 and 2017, engaged more than 150,000 people in all 50 states and collectively donated $1.29 billion to charity, according to a 2017 Collective Giving Research Group study supported by the IUPUI Women’s Philanthropy Institute in Indianapolis.

Giving Circles might be an offshoot of an existing group, like a book club, knitters, wine tasting pals, business networking group or potluck club. Other giving circles might meet annually, especially if members come from around the country, and ask their members to write bigger checks. Their funds can be managed by a non-profit organization, like the Women’s Fund, that can recommend different charities and distribute money.

The giving circle that Appleton’s Beth Davis helped establish, the Women for Health Giving Circle, meets every August. Many in the circle have known each other professionally for more than a decade, and each member donates between $350 and $1,000 a year into the fund held at the Women’s Fund.

“We first got together when we were working with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women,” said Mary Beth Leopold, one of the original dozen members. “We wanted to give funding to things that meant a lot to us personally, like women’s health and mental health.”

The group has expanded its philanthropy to numerous local causes in women’s mental, spiritual and physical health.

The 2017 CGRG study said that 70 percent of giving circles were composed of a majority of women, but that is changing. It reported newer circles were a diverse mix of ages, genders, races and incomes, and are an “increasingly popular way for donors from a diverse array of backgrounds to support charitable organizations or projects of mutual interest.”

If you are interested in starting a giving circle, the Women’s Fund can help. Contact Julie Keller at (920) 702-7617 or jkeller@womensfundfvr.org.

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