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What is a Giving Circle and Why Should Nonprofits Care?

A giving circle can amplify your fundraiser with a collaborative donor group that serves as a philanthropic force.
People huddled together.

Imagine a philanthropic force working outside your organization to amplify your fundraisers. A giving circle is a collective donor group that acts as such an external force.

Over the past decade, the number of giving circles supporting various organizations has more than tripled. More importantly, they continue to grow in popularity.

Here’s why: A donor circle creates a sense of belonging between the people who are raising money for your organization’s mission and purpose. The circle creates a de facto membership into an elite or unique group that can appeal to certain parts of your base.

Giving circles prove the collective power of fundraising is more powerful than an individual ask alone. As a result, it should be part of your fundraising strategy.

Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

  1. What is a Giving Circle?
  2. 5 Benefits of a Giving Circle 
  3. How Donor Circles Amplify Giving and Empower Nonprofits
  4. How to Set up Giving Circle Pages on a Nonprofit Website
  5. How to Set up Online Giving for Your Giving Circle
  6. Ways to Enhance Your Online Giving Circle Setup
  7. Start Your Giving Circle

What is a Giving Circle?

A giving circle is a group of donors that come together to pool money for an organization. The circle might include friends, family members, or co-workers. Sometimes even a seemingly random group comes together to support the cause.

Giving circles can be small, with only a handful of members, to hundreds of participants. According to Giving Tuesday,

“American giving circles have engaged at least 150,000 people and given away as much as $1.29 billion” in the last 20 years. 

That’s a significant fundraising catalyst for almost any organization.

Here’s why it works: A giving circle also provides an element of collective influence for participants. Circles often meet or communicate to outline things they would like to see from the organization they support. They may even include paid staff, fundraisers, or board members.

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5 Benefits of a Giving Circle

Giving circles are becoming more popular because they work. They provide benefits for both nonprofits and individuals who participate.

Key benefits of a giving circle include:

  1. Accessibility: Group donations include more people within more demographics, at more giving levels. A family donor circle, for example, might extend to children who give just a few dollars but learn to connect and contribute to a cause.
  2. Collaborative buy-in: A donor circle may focus on specific initiatives or organizational planning. This creates an element of collective buy-in that’s hard to match. These are often some of your most vocal supporters.
  3. Education: Members of the giving circle also educate others about your nonprofit’s goal or mission. They’re the ones who tell others about fundraising efforts and invite them to join their circle.
  4. Wider reach: The people in your giving circle are likely top ambassadors. They help to build a bigger and better sense of community for your organization through their outreach efforts. They may also be the same people who serve on boards or committees, volunteer with your nonprofit or at events, and invite others to participate as well.
  5. More immediate results: Collective giving can jumpstart projects or programs with dedicated funding. This kind of immediate gratification can validate giving for some donors and propel them to stay involved.

How Donor Circles Amplify Individual Giving and Empower Nonprofits

The biggest benefit to giving circles might be their ability to help reach a broad potential community of donors.

A report from Nonprofit Quarterly said it best:

“The diversity of scale and scope of giving circles is what makes them both exciting new vehicles in the philanthropic landscape and challenging ones to develop a cultivation strategy for.”

Certain types of donor groups – particularly women – are most likely to engage in donor circles as a method for fundraising. They are also most likely to engage their networks to join them, adding a highly social element to fundraising.

Nearly 70% of giving circle membership comes from women. Women are also most likely to support local, community issues that mirror bigger, national trends. Activity is highest in areas such as human services, women’s issues, and education. If your nonprofit works in these areas, you also have a foot in the door to establishing amplified giving through donor circles.

How it works: It’s rooted in the concept of social proof. Giving circles help create a subset community around your nonprofit. People in the circle contribute and expand the reach of your organization. Nonprofit Quarterly reports donations can range from $20 to $2 million.

Others outside the circle may also donate because they see the activity of those within. They may also choose to donate because they support the micro-mission or project associated with the circle.

The other benefit that comes from giving circles is that these members tend to donate more than other individuals.

One of the key researchers in the area, Angela Eikenberry, found that members of giving circles seem to donate more. They are also more engaged in determining what groups to give to and how much. 

The bottom line is that a strategic giving circle can have a significant financial impact on your organization.

How to Set up Giving Circle Pages on a Nonprofit Website

A giving circle likely starts with a page on your website. Whether you have existing giving circles or you want to inspire your donors to connect, start with a landing page. This is a place for those donors to stay in touch and keep up with information about their circle.

GiveWP tools give you a few options to do this:

  • Create a form as a page to collect giving circle donations.
  • Create a more robust landing page in your WordPress website and integrate GiveWP features and tools. The GiveWP plugin includes easy-to-use design tools that you can scale with your giving needs.
  • Design your own landing page in WordPress and connect online donation forms with a widget, shortcode, or Gutenberg block. (GiveWP forms work with all the top themes and page builders to make it easy.)

Once you have your page ready, just link the donation form (and payment gateway) and you are ready to accept donations from your giving circle online.

Remember, a more robust page with plenty of information and images will serve you better than a form alone. Make the page engaging and give donor circle members something to be proud of and help attract new members.

How to Set up Online Giving for Your Giving Circle

You can also use GiveWP to power your giving circle. This allows members of your circle to donate online through a website of your own. You can use your giving circle website for one giving circle or multiple. It’s up to you.

GiveWP includes a powerful donor database on the backend of your website that helps you manage donors and donor circles. You can note which donors are part of a circle and send targeted communications and emails to that group.

Include a page that outlines what the giving circle is, its mission or goals, point of contact for information. Add a donation form so that anyone who has an interest can give right away.

GiveWP Forms are easy to integrate into your WordPress website. They can be stand-alone pages or embedded in another page with a shortcode or widget. Check the documentation for more information.

Ways to Enhance Your Online Giving Circle Setup

Once you have a landing page set up for your giving circle and a form for donations, there are other GiveWP add-ons that can make communicating and managing this team even easier.

The Funds & Designations add-on is a must have for this type of page. It allows you to create donation funds and designations that allow donors to contribute as part of their circle or to a specific program. It integrates right into the donation form and can help push additional giving. 

Because of the social and group nature of a giving circle, consider adding a swag store with a donation upsell. This allows members of the circle to buy items from your organization. The Donation Upsells for WooCommerce add-on allows donors to make a purchase and donation at the same time. Consider having a special item just for giving circle members. 

Finally, connect an email marketing tool, such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact. This allows giving circle members to sign up for a specific email list that’s just for them.

Amplify your fundraising with a GiveWP Plan

Start Your Giving Circle

Giving circles are a fundraising and donor relationship tool that continue to grow in popularity. If you haven’t already created a giving circle within your organization, this might be the perfect opportunity to consider it.

Not only can giving circles better engage some of your most loyal supporters, but they can also spur more giving and a larger community network. Make sure that you are doing everything you can to foster this community by setting up a giving circle page for donors and providing an avenue for easy online giving.

Schedule a demo with the customer success team or download GiveWP free to try it out now.

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