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Giving circles’ influence

By Dr. Angela Eikenberry and Jessica Bearman, the Center of Philanthropy, University of Nebraska |

Ever since giving circles — groups of individual donors who pool their money and other resources and decide together where these should be distributed — emerged as a philanthropic trend, we have speculated about their impact. Do donors give more or give differently because they are involved in a giving circle? Do they become more engaged and active in their communities? Are they more politically active? Until now, the evidence of giving circles’ impact on donors was mainly qualitative. This study examines, in a more comprehensive and quantitative manner, the impact of giving circles on their members’ giving and civic engagement.

Members of giving circles give more, on average, than donors who are not in giving circles. Although this finding is tempered when income is taken into consideration, giving circle member self-reports and interviews suggest that giving circles cause members to increase their giving. Different activities within the circle also influence giving. For example, donors involved in a circle’s grantmaking decision process give the most overall. When donors are more engaged in a giving circle, are in a giving circle longer, or are in multiple giving circles, their giving is higher.

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