Host a Giving Circle

A Strategic Partner to Support Your Infrastructure

Community-based philanthropy recognizes that solutions to community problems are best solved when those most affected are empowered to make the decisions that influence their lives.  Tides is an international social justice leader that encourages individuals to think and act more strategically with their philanthropic giving for greater impact.  Whether you are just starting to think about organizing a giving circle or have been established for years, Tides has the expertise in administering collective giving models and providing donor education experiences that will support the growth and grantmaking of your giving circle, and the knowledge and confidence of your members.

Tides support giving circles with:

  • A collective action fund for all contributions
  •  Grants administration services for domestic and global grants
  • Programmatic consulting on funding guidelines and RFP development
  • Resources for technical assistance and networking opportunities
  • Donor engagement and education opportunities
  • Quarterly financial statements

Tides recognize the need of the individual donor to be more engaged in their community on multiple levels.  Giving circles are a shared giving model and effective strategy that organizes individuals and their need for larger philanthropic investments and civic engagement.  In hosting giving circles and providing donor education and engagement opportunities we hope to leverage the expertise of community members to increase funding to underserved communities and issue areas.


Ten Basic Steps to Starting a Giving Circle

  1. Reach out to family and friends to discuss the idea to see if there is interest.  Discuss what areas you may want to focus on and set a date for the first meeting.
  2. At the first meeting create the circle structure, including financial contributions. How often will the members meet? Will everyone give the same amount?
  3. Establish a mission with agreed upon goals and intentions.  What problem do you want to address? What would you like to accomplish?
  4. Decide how you will select grantees.  Will it be organizations with which at least one member is familiar?  Will you focus in a local community? Will it be a majority-rule process?
  5. Organize grantmaking timelines.  How much do you want to give away annually?  How large or small you want your grants to be?
  6. Decide where to keep your grantmaking funds. Depending on your needs you may want to consider a public charity, a community foundation or a financial institution.
  7. Double check with yourself and your members if you want to make this commitment. Giving circles are one of the most active forms of philanthropy.  It takes dedication and a lot of time from the members to ensure success. 
  8. Ensure every member has a task in addition to their donation.  Some members could be responsible for researching potential grantees, while others can start to draft your mission statement.  This will help build personal commitment and accountability for each member.
  9. Write up the grantmaking rules and process regulations of your circle and share with all of the members.  These regulations may include who will be responsible for collecting the contributions, and who will be the primary contact with the host organization.
  10. Decide on your grantmaking process.  Will you have a formal RFP process or rely on the suggestions of members?  Will you conduct site visits?

These guidelines are not linear nor are they the only way to start a giving circle.  Trust in the collective instincts of the group and do what makes sense for your circle.


Frequently Asked Questions about Giving Circles

  • What is a giving circle?
    A giving circle is a collective giving grantmaking vehicle used by individuals who want to pool their resources to provide funding in mutually agreed upon issue areas or communities.
  • How do I start a giving circle?
    There is no right nor wrong way to start a giving circle.  Many circles start out as a few like-minded individuals wanting to make a difference in their community. Please see our list of Ten Basic Steps to Staring a Giving Circle for some guidance.
  • Why do I need a host for my giving circle?
    A host provides administrative support for a giving circle, which includes a central place for contributions to be received and held until grant decisions are made.  Hosts also provide regular financial statements and perform due diligence on all grants.  This lightens the administrative load on giving circle members.  In addition, a host can also help with research and recommendations on areas of interest.
  • Why not just keep the member contributions in a bank?
    Although a bank is a good place to hold your member contributions, they are not equipped to provide you with the philanthropic advice and other grantmaking resources needed to ensure you are meeting your goals.  A national public charity like Tides is experienced in how the non profit world works and can provide the added benefit of connecting your giving circle to national and global networks, movements and resources.
  • Why join a giving circle instead of giving on my own?
    Through a giving circle you can leverage your own personal gift into an impact gift.  In addition, a giving circle is a community that supports and serves each other through information gathering and sharing of individual areas of expertise, which will help with making a more informed decision.
  • How much money does each member contribute in a giving circle?
    Each circle chooses a financial model that is best for their members. Some giving circles request that each member give the same amount, while others have a “give what you can” philosophy.  There is no right or wrong model.
  • Can my circle request grantmaking advice from Tides even if you are not our host?
    Absolutely! We are here to help support community-based grantmaking.  You can always call with general questions.  For more enhanced services including assistance with an RFP process, strategy development and recommendations we will be able to set up a consultancy contract based on your needs.
  • Can giving circles make grants outside of the United States?
    Yes!  Although they require additional due diligence, Tides can make international grants based on recommendations from giving circles.


If you have further questions, please contact Renée Joslyn at (212) 509-4973.