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Below are some tips for finding or starting a Giving Circle:

j Review Giving Circles in Your Area and Decide if you want to:

  • Join Another Circle
  • Create a Chapter of an Existing National Circle Network
  • Create Your Own Circle

You can check out a few exemplary Giving Circles throughout the U.S., noting that nine of these circles are on our Giving Circles Advisory Panel, and information on all of these can be found by conducting simple searches in the internet.  You can also view:

Global Giving Circles and

Online or Virtual Circles

If you would like to add to our list, please contact us.

k Discover Issues in Your Community

There are many different ways to discover the issues in your community of interest, be it local, regional or even a community overseas.  Here are some different ways you can discover issues:

  • Meet with someone who is directly connected to local issues (either professionally or personally).  Ask them to advise you on needs and contacts as well as to explore the needs in your area with you.  Such a person might be employed in a local school, place of worship, social service agency, community foundation or other organization directly engaged with and knowledgeable about the community.

  • Recruit new members who have had direct experience your community or the international community of interest.

  • Affiliate with a host organization that can guide your Giving Circle through the needs discovery process.  This can be a community or private foundation, university or other organization able to act as a host for your organization.

l Determine Your Circle's Cause(s) and/or Issue(s). 

In developing a Circle or determining if you might prefer to join an existing one, it will assist you and your friends or colleagues to explore and determine causes and issues of interest.

You can explore global and nationwide needs, causes and issues or review a quick list of issues below that may interest your Circle are:

- Accessibility Issues (including for Persons with Disabilities)

- Aging & Senior Citizens

- Arts, whether for community expression, social change, mental therapy or other purposes.

- Community development issues in your Circle's area;

- Disaster Relief & Emergency Preparedness;

- Education (community in general, women and girls, youth, minorities, low-income communities);

- Employment and Equal Opportunity;

- Environmental and sustainability issues, including environmental protection, conservation, climate change and global warming, and natural disaster (protection against or relief from).

- Health issues such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, mental health, etc.

- Homeless & Homelessness;

- Housing Affordability, Access and Assistance;

- Human/social rights issues and domestic violence;

- Poverty & Welfare;

- Refugee & the Diaspora;

- Other Global Issues that have local impact such as global peace, trade and geo-political issues.

It may help to limit the number of causes or issues only because it will simplify and help focus (at least initially) your Circle's efforts, programs and services.  Some Giving Circles focus on one issue per year and rotate issues.  Other Circle's focus on one or more primary issues and consistently fund those issues to achieve greater impact.

m  Develop Your Circle's Vision and Strategic/Action Plan:

  • Vision:  Now that your Circle has identified its issues or causes and before it articulates its mission statement, it will help to determine what is your Circle's vision of community.  This vision can be your Circle's ideals or principles.   The Alliance for Nonrofit Management states that a vision statement is a "guiding image of success formed in terms of a contribution to society".  Read more on how to articulate a vision statement.
  • Mission Statement:  Your Circle's mission should be motivating and state what it seeks to do and how it might do that.  The mission should include your Circle's purpose, business (how it intends to accomplish its purpose), and values (i.e., what guides your Circle's members). 
  • Strategy The most effective way that your Giving Circle can ensure that it achieves its intended impact is to develop a strategy statement with goals and objectives.  The strategy should include: 

1) Goals (a minimum of two or three); and

2) Objectives - for each goal, there should be at least two objectives.  Try not to duplicate any action verbs from the goals in the objectives, which will encourage your members to get more specific with your objectives.

  • Action Plan:  Your Circle's Action Plan will help your Circle measure its success and determine whether it is having the impact that it seeks to have.  For each objective, your Giving Circle can select a target, measure and deadline that will serve as the determining factor as to whether the objective can be considered accomplished or not.  

Example: 

- Goal:            Reduce poverty

- Objective:    Help the homeless

- Target:         Feed homeless people

- Measure:     Feed 10 people monthly and 120 people annually

- Deadline:      By 12/31/07

The value in this approach is that your Circle can revisit its goals monthly, quarterly and annually before too much funding has been disbursed, help your Circle stay on track or, if it is off track, you may be able to spot problems and correct them more quickly.  Most importantly, you will accurately know that your Circle did in fact accomplish its objectives.    

Each Giving Circle must be precise and clear about their targets and measurements.  This general approach gives the Circle a starting plan to which it can return to assess the impact of their organization.  This concept, now commonplace in the private sector, is spilling over into the non-profit arena as well, since astute donors, government agencies, and boards of directors look to ensure the performance of non profits.  Even if your Giving Circle does not take the formal route of becoming a 501(c)(3), it can still benefit from a strategy and action plan.

For more information, see Impact Tools & Tips.

n Determine the Level of Formality:  Tax Exempt Donations or Not?

Do you want to enable your donors to have tax-exempt donations?  Visit the Key to Money to determine what format your Giving Circle should set up.

 oSet Up Your Organization

This includes selecting your Board of Directors, writing your Circle's bylaws, and preparing some basic organizational procedures..

  • Bylaws - The GCN Advisory Panel recommends that a good starting point for any Giving Circle is putting together a set of bylaws limited to the basic and necessary information required by Federal and State law.  A good example is the one prepared by the Giving Circle of Hope in Reston, VA; you can download them at their site - lower left menu.
  • The Center for Non Profit Management offers a very helpful checklist on starting your non-profit.
  • FirstGov for Non Profits "...is designed as a central starting point to help nonprofit organizations access online federal information and services. It is linked to all cabinet departments and many agencies. It contains information about grants, regulations, taxes, and other services as well as information on a wide range of other topics and programs."

p Govern & Grow

Learn more about:

Governance and Growing your Membership

Fundraising and Grantmaking

qGoing Global

If you are considering expanding your local Giving Circle to promote (and perhaps even volunteer for) causes overseas or if you have already done it and are looking for more giving avenues, there are at least three international giving organizations that offer services targeted to Giving Circles as described below:

  • The Clarence Foundation:  Offers Giving Circles without Borders (short-term Giving Circles similar to book-of-the-month clubs) whereby members can participate in the Circles of their choice either via donating funds or their time with short-term circle events overseas.
  • Universal Giving:  Can set up a private (closed) or open online space for one or more Giving Circles.
  • The Skoll Foundation and Global Giving have collaborated to assist individuals wanting to host house parties to fund The New Heroes (which are pre-screened grantees around the world).  This is similar to event-based Giving Circles such as Dining for Women, but is international in focus and offers The New Heroes package, which comes with a list of identified grantees as well as the tools and system in place to facilitate the giving process.

 

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Last modified: 12/12/12