giving circles

June 1, 2023

Episode #60: Giving Circles and Collective Philanthropy with Sara Lomelin

In today’s episode, Tobi interviews Sara Lomelin who is an expert in Giving Circles and collective philanthropy. Here at VolunteerPro, we’re also very interested in doing that when it comes to community engagement, volunteer talent, and thinking about new ways we can engage the community in our missions, which is the most important thing right now.

Sara Lomelin is a philanthropy disruptor and an expert in giving circles and collective philanthropy. She is the founding CEO of Philanthropy Together, which is growing a movement of people-powered philanthropy to resource grassroots nonprofits to shift power dynamics and promote widespread philanthropy. Prior to Philanthropy Together, Lomelin served as Senior Director of Leadership Philanthropy in Action Opportunity Fund and as VP of Philanthropy at the Latino Community Foundation, where she created the Latino Giving Circle Network trademark, the largest network of Latinx philanthropists in the US. She has traveled the world speaking about the power of collective giving at high profile conferences and events, including TED 2022, where she delivered her talk, “Your Invitation to Disrupt Philanthropy.” Sara holds a BA from Universidad Iberoamericana  in Mexico City and an administration and management certificate from Harvard University.

Giving Circles – What Is Giving Circles?

Giving circles are groups of individuals who come together to pool their money and resources to make donations to nonprofit organizations. These groups are often formed around a shared interest or cause, and members work together to research and select organizations to support. Giving circles can be formal or informal, and they can be organized around a specific geographic area, issue area, or demographic group. Members of giving circles often engage in volunteerism and other forms of support beyond financial donations, and they can serve as a bridge between individual donors and larger foundations or corporations. Giving circles are a growing trend in philanthropy, and they offer a way for individuals to have a greater impact on the causes they care about.

Giving Circles – Trends and Development

According to Sara, giving circles are not a new concept and have been around for hundreds of years in communities all around the world, especially in communities of color. However, they are on the rise again, particularly after the pandemic, as people are hungry for connection. Giving circles offer a way for individuals to come together and pool their resources to make donations to nonprofit organizations. Giving circles are incredible for small organizations that are often invisible to traditional philanthropy. They offer a way for individuals to have a greater impact on the causes they care about and engage in volunteerism and other forms of support beyond financial donations.

Giving Circles – Show Highlights

01:29.60 Tobi started with talking about different ways to leverage community talent to help organizations become more sustainable

02:17.10 Tobi introduced Sara Lomelin and her biography

04:28.60  What sparked your interest in giving circles

17:34.30 Do giving circles also get involved in fundraising

37:05.50 Are giving circles open to anybody

21:01.30 What are the benefits of the giving circle and how do you start one

41:44.60 How do giving circles relate to overall trends in philanthropy

45:34.10 What advice to do you give to organizations who want to partner up with giving circles

53:38.20 What are you most excited about in the year ahead

Giving Circles – Quotes from the Episode

“Volunteers want to pull up their sleeves and they want to engage and they want to work.”

“They want to give their treasure, which is their financial donation, but they also want to give their time and their talent and their ties and their testimony.”

“Sense of belonging, something that people are going to come back because they’re part of something that is bigger than themselves.”

“So they trust the process, they trust each other, and the whole idea is that that trust will get transferred to the leaders on the ground.”

“The ones that know what the community needs are those leaders on the nonprofits that are working in that community.”

“Volunteers are often the interconnective tissue between the community and the organization.”

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