New Microgrants Cultivate Collective Giving

Members of the co-design team working to grow the power and amplification of giving circles. (Photo credit: Catalist)

On August 20, 2019, an initiative to connect and catalyst the field of giving circles announced their intention to donate $32,000 to collective giving organizations. The funds, distributed in thirteen microgrants ranging from $500 to $5,000, will go toward circles and networks that “showcase, scale, strengthen, and sustain the field of collective giving. 

This initiative is born out of a yearlong co-design process spearheaded by the organizations Amplifier, Asian Women’s Giving Circle, Catalist, Community Investment Network, and Latino Community Foundation. 

Leading funders of the co-design process include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lodestar Foundation, and Bank of America.

The goal of the microgrants program is to empower organizations and networks committed to the concept of collective giving: a process in which interested donors join together, pool their financial resources, and invest in programs or organizations that strengthen their communities.”

Over the last year, these organizations identified four main strategies to amplify the field of collective giving:

  • Showcasing the giving circle model, building broad awareness of giving circles and their manifold benefits;
  • Helping the field scale by supporting a variety of efforts to start new circles;
  • Providing resources and capacity-building to strengthen existing circles and networks; and
  • Sustaining the field with collaborative initiatives, funding, and action-focused research.

The groups selected for the $32,000 in microgrants exemplify one or more of these four main strategies.

The first group of grantees showcase the giving circle model. Through community outreach, press relations, and scaled donation systems, these organizations seek to call attention to organizations that epitomize the concept of a “giving circle.” Grantees include (from the press release):

  • Next Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP) will facilitate discussions about collective giving in African American communities across all 100 counties in North Carolina. NGAAP will partner with local organizations (e.g., nonprofits, faith-based orgs, colleges) across the state and hold a “table talk” in each county. These events, open to the public and broadcast on social media, will aim to expose, educate, and encourage African American communities to develop and duplicate collective giving models. (North Carolina)
  • The 100 Who Care Alliance, Dining for Women, and Global Impact will coordinate across their networks for greater regional impact in the mid-Atlantic. The grantees, who each operate giving circles in the greater D.C. metro area, will harmonize their promotional efforts to garner more attention from local press. They will work together to recruit new members and refer potential members to the circle that best fits their needs and interests. (DC Metro-area)
  • Radfund will develop and disseminate a toolkit to help create giving circles that use its unique “percentage” contribution model to address issues of racial and economic injustice. Radfund’s collective giving model cuts across class and economic lines by setting proportionate, rather than flat, personal annual giving targets: 1% of income, and 0.1% of wealth. This approach has already helped Radfund create a vibrant, diverse circle in NYC supporting racial and economic justice. The toolkit will help Radfund spread this model to other issue areas and geographies. (National)

The next group of grantees were selected to scale the model by creating more circles and networks. Leaning on celebrated traits that draw communities together, such as cultural practices, religious beliefs, and LGBTQIA+ support, these organizations will build giving circles and networks that support members’ philanthropic and personal beliefs. Grantees include:

  • The Hmong Impact Giving Circle The Hmong Impact Giving Circle (HIGC) will build awareness and start giving circles in Hmong communities in the US. Over 350,000 Hmong live in the US, most having arrived from Southeast Asia in the past 40 years. Collective giving within extended families and clans is an established practice in Hmong culture; giving circles can help bridge the gap between that giving and more formalized philanthropy. HIGC will use this microgrant to both raise awareness in Hmong communities and create new Hmong giving circles across the US. (National)
  • The American Muslim Fund The American Muslim Fund (AMF) will advance Muslim philanthropy by sharing best practices about giving circles and by starting new circles. With a nationwide footprint and a prominent voice in Muslim philanthropy, AMF is well positioned to raise awareness about collective giving and to connect disparate efforts. This microgrant will help support existing Muslim giving circles, reinvigorate some that have stalled, and capture best practices. (National)
  • MakingChange will establish a gay men’s giving circle that will use Jewish values to guide its giving. This microgrant will assist in the infrastructure and operational costs of starting a circle in New York City with an initial membership focus on gay Jewish men and focused initially on giving to LGBTQ organizations. (New York City) 

The third group will strengthen existing circles and networks. These grantees are committed to diversity and inclusion, education and research, and the development of toolkits and curriculum that organizations can use to spread their message. These organizations hope to boost giving across the nation by educating the public about the benefits of philanthropic networks and giving circles. Grantees include:

  • For Her: A Black Women Giving Movement for Black Girls, CoThinkk, and Circle of Joy Atlanta will collaborate to create an equity-centered toolkit for the giving circle field. This new partnership will develop a publicly-accessible guide for giving circle leaders that uses equity-centered design, a solution-focused and outcome-driven process that infuses history, research, and data; addresses power dynamics; and includes effective community engagement that builds power. (National)
  • Dining for Women (DfW) will give organizational leadership anti-bias training to further diversity and inclusion in chapters nationwide. DfW has engaged over 30,000 Americans in collective giving since 2003 – 98% of whom are white women. Training provided by the Anti-Defamation League will build leadership capacity among staff and board members for an organization-wide effort to diversify DfW circles. (National)
  • The Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County: The Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County will undertake foundational internal work that operationalizes its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Specifically, the circle will form a committee focused on DEI; formulate and implement a DEI policy; and revise the circle’s core values to reflect this commitment. (Maryland)

Finally, the fourth group of grantees sustains the collective giving movement through a mix of fundraising and campaigning. Funds will boost fundraising efforts for a wide variety of campaigns and organizations. They will also go toward the creation of databases, surveys, research projects, and online platforms that make the process of giving easier, more efficient, and more effective to spread to wider audiences. Grantees include:

  • The 100 Who Care Alliance (100WCA) will strengthen its core financial infrastructure and survey its network. It will secure fiscal sponsorship for the network as a whole; and develop and implement a survey of its 450+ chapters, allowing 100WCA to better understand the needs and interests of its circles and their members. (National)
  • Impact100 Greater Cincinnati will establish a vehicle for planned giving to sustain the circle and develop an “Equity Champion Certificate.” Impact 100 will leverage its Directors to develop a campaign for planned giving among its founding members and board, a significant opportunity to ensure the network’s  long term sustainability and a potentially useful template for the field. (National)
  • The Awesome Foundation will support development of enhanced functionality of the open-source platform that drives the Awesome Foundation grant-making process and website. The Awesome Foundation’s user-friendly platform has already helped 94 chapters in 13 countries give nearly $4 million; this microgrant will add in online discussion of applications into the platform. (Global)
  • The Learning by Giving Foundation (LxG) will develop a platform to assess its impact on the thousands of individuals that have completed its programs. The microgrant will fund the development of a database to record and track participant surveys that address the impacts of collective giving over time. This will allow LxG to both contribute to field-wide research and hone its own curriculum, which will be shared across the field. (National)   

When it comes down to it, this $32,000 project is really one large giving circle promoting the efforts and campaigns of multiple philanthropic network. By pooling resources — and by giving out thirteen smaller grants instead of a couple of larger ones — the twenty funders can more effectively use their collective $32,000 to make an impact in several different communities.

Many of the organizations receiving these microgrants contribute to philanthropy, giving circles, and the research and education related to them on both national and international levels. Together, these organizations will continue to expand and transform the realm of giving circles.

The focus on collective giving as a way to align with your community around key values and strategies, is an important new direction in philanthropy being driven primarily by women.

The effects of our actions, no matter how small, can have impressive and positive impacts. When we work together as a collective, we amplify the smallest of actions into something much larger.

For more information on the giving collective’s microgrants, read their press release online.

To learn more about giving circles, read about the impact of collective philanthropy as it spreads into an international movement. If you’re interested in getting more involved, sign up for “PowerUP!: The Spark that Ignites Change,” Catalist’s 2020 conference hosted in Seattle, Washington.


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Author: Maggie May

Maggie May is a small business owner, author, and story-centric content strategist. A Maryland transplant by way of Florida, DC, Ireland, Philadelphia, and -- most recently -- Salt Lake City, she has a passion for finding stories and telling them the way they're meant to be told.

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