Collective Giving Groups / Giving Circles

Collective giving groups, often known as giving circles, have tripled in number since 2007 and are an increasingly popular way for donors from diverse backgrounds to amplify the impact of their giving. Giving circles and similar models of collaborative giving (GCs) entail groups of individuals who collectively donate money and sometimes unpaid time to support organizations or projects of mutual interest. Members have a say in how funding is given and which organizations or projects are supported.

Logo - Collective Giving Research GroupThe Collective Giving Research Group (CGRG) is a research collaborative launched in 2015 to explore and understand the dynamics of giving circles and other forms of collective giving today. The CGRG was founded by Jason Franklin, Ph.D., W.K. Kellogg Chair for Community Philanthropy at the Johnson Center, along with Jessica Bearman (Bearman Consulting), Julia L. Carboni, Ph.D. (Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University), and Angela Eikenberry, Ph.D. (School of Public Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha).

The Landscape of Giving Circles/Collective Giving Groups in the U.S. (2016)

The Landscape of Giving Groups

The first report of a three-part series was published in Nov. 2017. The Landscape of Giving Circles/Collective Giving Groups in the U.S. investigates the current scope and scale of collective giving groups in the United States to understand their impact on donor giving and civic engagement. The findings present strong evidence that giving circles are an increasingly significant philanthropic force, engaging a greater diversity of donors, including women, people of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, and donors of all wealth levels.

Dr. Franklin provides further insights into this report in his blog post from Nov. 2017.

Initial findings from the other two studies are included in The State of Giving Circles Today: Overview of New Research Findings, also published in Nov. 2017.

Giving Circle Membership

In Nov. 2018, the CGRG released the second and third reports of the series. Giving Circle Membership: How Collective Giving Impacts Donors, looks at how giving circle participation influences members and explores how established members differ from new ones. Key findings include:

  • Giving Circles Membership: How Collective Giving Impacts DonorsNewer giving circle members tend to be more diverse in terms of age, income and race.
  • Newer members join giving circles for the opportunity to engage more deeply on a cause or issue; more established members cite the ability to leverage gifts and “fun” as primary reasons for participation.
  • The report affirms previous research that giving circle members give more, give more strategically and proactively, give to a wider array of organizations, volunteer more, and are more likely to engage in civic activity.

Dynamics of Hosting

The final report of this initial series, Dynamics of Hosting Giving Circles and Collective Giving Groups, explores the hosting experiences of community foundations and other organizations. Key findings include:

  • Dynamics of Hosting: Giving Circles and Collective Giving GroupsContributing to a culture of philanthropy in their communities is the top reason that hosts are motivated to start or support a giving circle, followed by reaching new donors and a more diverse set of donors.
  • The most fundamental service provided by giving circle hosts is serving as a fiscal sponsor; other top services offered include providing communications support, organizing educational opportunities for members and soliciting proposals from potential grantees.
  • Hosts cited staff time required, differences in expectations between the giving circle and host organization, and covering costs as the biggest challenges associated with hosting giving circles.


Click to view and download PDF versions.

Infographic - Giving Circles Landscape
Infographic - Dynamics of Hosting

Special thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for co-funding this research.