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Joint Giving Circle Event Explores “The Power of the Giving Circle: From Collective Giving to Collective Impact”

More than 30 members of Hartford Foundation’s Black Giving Circle Fund, Catalyst Endowment Fund and Latino Endowment Fund came together to share their experiences in collective giving, what motivates them to be involved.

After updates from each of the three steering committee chairs, members representing each giving circle sat at tables and were asked to answer four questions:

  • Why did you join a giving circle?
  • What have you learned from your giving circle activities?
  • How can giving circles maintain relevance going forward?
  • What will keep you engaged?

After their discussions at the table, each one reported their responses. While each question elicited a wide variety of responses, there were clearly a number of shared themes by all of those in attendance. Many of the members said they joined a giving circle said they wanted to give back to their community and have a greater impact. Most people discussed how they wished to become more active in philanthropy by learning more about issues, meeting like-minded people, and just becoming more engaged. Some members, particularly those supporting the Black Giving Circle Fund, want to create a new model of philanthropy for the community that engages with a traditional institutional philanthropic organization like a community foundation. 

In response to the question about what people have learned from their participation in a giving circle, one of the most common themes was the power of working together to learn about issues, to pool resources for grants, and that this unity brings power. One of the participants discussed how greater collaboration among all three giving circles might be even more impactful stating, “You can create unity among givers … that gives you a lot of power to make change.” Other responses included having an inside look at the actual grantmaking process. People also noted just how many people share their willingness to put their money and time into solving problems.

The topic of maintaining giving circles’ relevance also shared common responses among each group with one of the primary answers focusing on the need to recruit, attract and market to younger donors to cultivate the next generation of philanthropists in the community. Many people expressed the need to do a better job of listening to what members of the communities they wish to support actually want and need. All of those in attendance expressed a desire to work harder to ensure that the grants they support make an impact or foster positive change in the community.

The responses to the question about keeping members engaged also shared common themes for all in attendance including the importance of seeing that the grants they make are actually producing the desired impact. Members discussed the importance of exploring topics that they find personally relevant and important in the communities they wish to support. Other recurring issues raised included the idea of contributing support to sustainable projects that will create more impactful, systemic change.

Hartford Foundation Senior Community Investments Officer Yvette Bello discussed how the Foundation shared the giving circles’ interest in actively engaging and promoting community voice and community engagement using the recent launch of a non-partisan Get Out the Vote Request For Proposal focused on Hartford residents, youth, and persons of color. The Foundation hopes this generates a wide selection of applications with the goal of registering people to vote, getting them to turn out to participate in the electoral process and working on education and engagement after the election. The Foundation hopes this effort will inform and support a Census 2020 initiative to ensure a high level of participation and that everyone is counted. Some members expressed an interest in possibly getting involved with the workaround “Get out the Vote” in some capacity.

As in previous joint giving circle events, people clearly appreciate the opportunity to get together and share the experiences of each group. There were suggestions about members meeting for networking and conversation among the groups and then breaking up into separate giving circle sessions. People also thought it might be worthwhile to invite groups like HYPE to a joint giving circle event or go to events hosted by such groups to share the benefits of participating in a giving circle to new and younger audiences.


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