Giving Circles: Self-Help/Mutual Aid, Community Philanthropy, or Both?

Angela M. Eikenberry

DOI: 10.2190/SH.5.3.d


Giving circles are growing in number in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. They involve individuals pooling resources and deciding together where and how to give these away. They also include social, educational, and volunteer opportunities for members. Most work on giving circles to date has focused on the contributions they make to nonprofit organizations as a means to address community problems. This article focuses on the dual purposes of giving circles to: 1) serve members as self-help/mutual aid groups for wealthy and other philanthropists; and 2) provide resources to the community. Based on data gathered through interviews, document analysis, and secondary data, the article asserts that giving circles provide their greatest value as self-help/mutual aid sources for members rather than as mechanisms for addressing community problems and this has important implications for the expectations of voluntary institutions in a new governance/risk environment.

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