How to Found & Lead a Giving Circle

Nov 10, 2022

This past week, as part of Grapevine’s monthly speaker series featuring leaders at the forefront of the collective giving movement, we hosted a panel discussion about How to Found & Lead a Giving Circle. Zenaida Cranford (President of Fayetteville Women for Good), Lisa LaTrovato (founder of the Fifty Fabulous Women Giving Circle network), Lynne Kelleher (founder of 100 Women Who Care Bucks County) and Geng Wang (CEO of Civic Champs and founder of the CivicChamps team giving circle) shared their unique perspectives around starting and running giving circles of various types and sizes.

Piggy-back on existing networks to get started

Lynn, Lisa, and Geng highlighted the easiest way to found a new giving circle is to leverage your existing groups and networks, and expand from there. For Lynn, this meant reaching out to her existing network from her real estate community and inviting them to get together in a new, fun way. For Lisa, this meant posting to her network on Linkedin and inviting people to join her on this new adventure. For Geng, he launched the group with his existing team at CivicChamps and integrated their giving circle discussions into their ongoing team meeting schedule.

Lean into the simplicity of the giving circle model

Both Zenaida and Lynne stressed that the giving circle model is a manageable way to make a sizable impact in your community. They urged listeners to try not to overcomplicate things and to ask for support from other members and leaders when they need it. When Lynne first heard about the model she thought, “This is brilliant. I can do this. I quickly discovered by running my group, that in one hour I could donate $2,500 back into my local community.”

Remember you’re a community of disruptive fundraisers

Lisa reminded us that just by leading a giving circle you’re challenging the status quo and democratizing philanthropy. Zenaida shared that one way Fayetteville Women for Good approaches this is by making sure all their selected nonprofits are 70% women-led or are supporting women. When you consider that less than 2% of all U.S. giving supports women’s and girls’ causes, this is disruption in action.

Think about how to bolster member engagement

All of our panelists agreed that bolstering member engagement is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to running a giving circle. Lynne suggests turning your granting events into a night out that members can look forward to and making sure to tease it and remind people leading up to it so they feel engaged around it long before it happens. She also suggests making all events hybrid, both virtual and in-person. Having a virtual component has noticeably increased engagement within her group. Lisa and Geng talked about the power of connecting members to the impact they’re creating to drive engagement and connection to the group, from having nonprofit grantee partners attend meetings to share updates on their work, to visibly tracking the numbers of nonprofits and causes, as well as dollars moved as a group over time.

Consider running a workplace giving circle that engages employees

Geng runs a giving circle for his team at Civic Champs and says it’s an excellent tool for giving his employees a voice in how they manage their corporate responsibility. As a mission-driven company, the democratized model is a perfect team activity that keeps his team connected to each other and to the company. He notes that they already have regular team meetings that this model can perfectly slot into without adding additional time or work.

You can watch a full event recording of the panel here:

Grapevine How to Found & Lead a Giving Circle Panel

Get started founding your giving circle today by answering these few questions. We’ll then create a draft giving circle page for you on Grapevine and send you all the tips and tricks you need to easily launch it with your community.