Donor Activism,Giving Circles

How to Start a Giving Circle

February 29, 2012
By Kristin Aldana-Taday

Liberty Hill has been known for years as a funder through our work in supporting nonprofit groups organizing for change.  Last night, we showed our other side: Liberty Hill as a resource for you to think strategically about your philanthropy.

Thirty people gathered at our offices for the “How to Create a Giving Circle” workshop and to those of you who were there, let me say we are thrilled you joined us. If you'd like to refresh your memory, or if you weren't able to make it, I presented a PowerPoint that you can see here (thank you to for some of the information used).

Wendy Chang, Liberty Hill Board Member and a member of SEVEN giving circles in Los Angeles, welcomed the group and spoke about the networking and fun she’s had by being a part of giving circles.

Mitchell Singer, a member of the recently started The OUT Fund, told us about how their fund will further LGBT equality and expand LGBT philanthropy among emerging and established givers. Even before his giving circle's first round of giving away money, MItchell says, he's learned the following valuable tips.

  • Decide what the values of your giving circle are so that when you ask people to join, they can let you know early on if they are a right fit.
  • Choose people for your circle that you enjoy being around because you’ll be spending a great deal of time with them.
  • Recognize there may be significant time commitment in the beginning as you start the giving circle.

Leslie Ito, member of the L.A. API Giving Circle described how their fund supports Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations/projects in Los Angeles County that are engaged in innovative, risk-taking that may not be supported by traditional avenues of support.  Sheoffered the group several tips including:

  • Consider using Facebook as a means of communication for your giving circle.  It’s an easy way to provide progress reports to the group and it also sparks interest from friends of friends who may want to join.
  • Use Skype and email to connect with one another.  One member even lives in Hong Kong and is still able to be connected and involved!
  • Make it easy on organizations applying for funding.  A simple application form and easy oral report back at a celebration meeting makes it efficient and fun for the members and the grant recipients.

It was a wonderful workshop and several participants joined giving circles before the night was even over!

Starting a giving circle can be as easy or as complex as you’d like it to be.  To learn more about giving circles, visit the Giving Forum.  Or, if you are interested in starting one in the Los Angeles area, call or email one of our Donor Services Team members, Darrell Tucci, Carol Lee or Kristin Aldana-Taday.