As we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, one of my favorite holidays of the year, I couldn’t help myself from finding links to one of my favorite growing philanthropic trends: giving circles.
Giving circles, part of the general category of collective giving, are groups of donors who pool their resources – be it time, talent or treasure – and decide as a group where they want to use those resources to make an impact. For example, a circle may consist of 10 friends who each pitch in $100 every quarter and meet up over dinner to choose where to donate. Often, circles form around identity groups within geographies, such as women of a particular county or LBGTQ+ activists of a city. Giving circles are an amazing tool to encourage donors to have fun while expanding awareness of different causes, increasing their charitable giving and making a real difference.
Now that we’re up to speed, what do giving circles have to do with St. Patrick’s Day? Let me tell you:
Commitment to making a difference St. Patrick's life story can get a little lost in the holiday celebrations we are accustomed to today, but St. Patrick was a real person who lived a remarkable life that he dedicated to making a difference. Born in Britain around A.D. 420, at the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave. After six years of forced labor, Patrick escaped back to Britain. He did not take his freedom for granted once reunited with his wealthy family though: He returned to Ireland and dedicated his life to serving others, supporting the growing Irish Christian minority, condemning persecution by the British government, and advocating against slavery.
The link to giving circles comes from Patrick’s work to bring others along with him on his quest to positively impact the world. He connected with communities and shared his vision, inspiring them to become change makers as well. Forming a giving circle is a way to introduce friends to a new side of philanthropy and for your entire group to share in a journey of giving and making a difference. While lots of mythology also surrounds his life (it’s unlikely that there were ever any snakes in Ireland), his example of committing to what you believe in can inspire any donor.
St. Patrick’s Day symbols and how they relate to giving circles.
Parades: Parades can be a great analogy for giving circles. Each float offers its own presentation and energy. The parade would be boring if each group was the same, and the variety of viewpoints makes for a cohesive and enjoyable whole.
This variety is the same thing that makes giving circles so exciting. Even in circles that are based around a central factor, like women business leaders or religiously grounded circles, each member brings a unique viewpoint that enriches the whole. By embracing these differences and learning from your giving circle peers, you can turn your philanthropy from a solitary walk to a full-blown parade!
Four-leaf clover: A four-leaf clover is one of the classic symbols of the luck of the Irish. It really does take a fair amount of luck to find one, it is estimated that only 1 clover in every 10,000 has four leaves. In the context of the holiday, a four-leaf clover is used to add some festive pizazz to decorations and clothing – and to make everyone feel a little extra lucky!
While a four-leaf clover might help, a member of a giving circle does not have to wait for good luck to make a change they want to see. If you have been wishing for the longest time that the local arts center could host more shows or that the garden in the schoolyard could get a refresh, you don’t have to wait for some lucky coincidence to make your goals happen. Being part of a giving circle means you get to make your own luck! Even if your donations alone could not sponsor a whole new garden, by pooling resources with your friends and sharing your passion with them, you can inspire real and impactful changes in your community – no luck (or four-leaf clover) needed.
Pot of gold: One of the most enduring images from the mythology around St. Patrick’s Day is the pot of gold. We know that leprechauns like to keep their stash safely at the end of the rainbow, but where should your circle hold onto its funds? Determining where to keep the pooled funds can be a logistical challenge for giving circles of any size. Having one member hold the funds is a lot of responsibility and extra work for that individual, and finding institutional partners can be expensive and inconvenient. Luckily (you see what I did there??), there is a solution.
Growfund for Giving Circles offers a no-minimum donor-advised fund platform that can allows your circle to economically and easily collect its funds in a single online tool, empower members to contribute directly to the pool and facilitates grantmaking to any nonprofit organization. Growfund for Giving Circles can take the stress of money management out of your giving circle experience, allowing you to focus on what drew you to your circle in the first place: the GIVING. Visit MyGrowfund.org to learn more!