Start a Giving Circle This Summer

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

By M. Starita Boyce Ansari, Ph.D., President & Chief Change Officer, MSBPhilanthropy Advisors LLC

Summer is finally here! After the brutal winter many of us experienced, it is time to look forward to those long, balmy days and breezy summer nights. Summer is the time for school reunions, backyard barbecues with family and friends, and just having a bit more freedom for fun. However, summer is not the time to forget about philanthropy. As we spend time enjoying this wonderful world, we should also think about ways we can help make it better. With the slight decrease in workload that comes during the season, this is perhaps the best time to consider creating a Giving Circle.

An issue that is too big for one person to tackle alone can be reduced by many people working together. For example, each year 10.9 million children under age five who live in underdeveloped countries die, mostly from malnutrition and hunger. Contributing $500 to the cause is merely a drop in the bucket. However, if you gather a dozen or so friends and colleagues and you each give $500, just imagine how soon that same bucket will overflow.

Your circle can be large or small and you can determine the contribution per person. To get started, look at a charity or cause (a sex trafficking nonprofit, purchasing vaccines for one village, etc.), find out how much money it would take to have an impact, and use that as your guide. This will make it easier to determine how much the circle must raise and the greatest possible impact it will have.

As professionals in this field, we know of many organizations that could do so much with just a bit of extra funding. By using your own money and getting friends and/or family involved, you can help close funding gaps and address social justice issues that are not in your grantmaking portfolio.

A Giving Circle is one of the simplest ways to get involved. Still wondering if Giving Circles are a solution for you? Here are a few quick benefits that may help you decide:

  1. Giving Circles can connect you with the people and groups that share your philanthropic interests and ideas.
  2. They allow you to have an impact on a large cause that is important to you, which you may not be able to affect on your own.
  3. Having many concerned individuals who are willing to contribute financially gives a larger, louder voice to any issue.
  4. It is an opportunity for you to be a philanthropist.
  5. Since we all belong to at least one group, committee, organization, or board, there are many opportunities to develop a Giving Circle. Just think about all the different groups and social occasions you will be involved in this season. From large gatherings like weddings or bar mitzvahs to smaller events like golf outings or beach parties, you will be in contact with hundreds of people this summer.

Giving Circles are a smart way to help the world even if you do not have much to give. If you need help getting started, several philanthropic advisors are always available for assistance—browse a few websites to find one whose mission is aligned with your passion. As you attend your events and reunions over the next couple of months, think about all the good that could be done if all the people at just one party or meeting each gave a little to help one cause.

Dr. M. Starita Boyce Ansari is President and Chief Change Officer of MSBPhilanthropy Advisors LLC, a team of social justice specialists dedicated to advancing responsive philanthropy. You can visit her website at

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