Take a night out with the gals, add a cocktail or two, stir in some philanthropy, and what do you get? A hangover with meaning? No, a giving circle, a social way to raise funds for a cause you believe in. Rather than writing an anonymous check to this group or that, you and your friends can join forces—and pool your money (or time)—to make a significant difference on an issue that matters to you. No wonder the number of giving circles has grown exponentially over the past decade—and collectively raised more than $88 million. Want to circle up?
- Come up with a mission. Are you and your pals passionate about the arts? The environment? Education? Think big—where do you most want to make a change?
- Lay down guidelines. How often will you meet? What’s the minimum each member needs to contribute? Will you give money, time, or both?
- Learn more. “Assign someone to find out what your town’s needs are, or invite leaders of a nonprofit to talk about how they’d use your funds,” says Emily Kessler, co-director of the NYC Venture Philanthropy Fund, which uses a giving-circle model.
- Pick an organization. You can request that your money be used for a specific purpose such as buying new computers for an underserved school. And ask for progress reports, so you can see exactly how you and your friends have made an impact. Now that’s money well spent.