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The Power of Giving Together

There has been lots to celebrate in the Midland’s philanthropic community the past few months. Our community enjoyed Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited, which debuted in Columbia, SC for the first time.  The multimedia exhibition celebrated the giving spirit and vibrant philanthropic traditions among Americans of African descent. And, we celebrated the 5th year anniversary of Midlands Gives, raising over $1.75 million for the 372 participating nonprofits and breaking the previous year’s record! During Midlands Gives I spoke with Dr. Ben Dixon, a veteran educator, Founder and President of Sankofa Futures Consulting.  He’s an active member of COLA Gives, Columbia’s first African-American giving circle and served as our first guest blogger in our “Love Where You Live” series and has been interviewed for our website.

I asked Dr. Dixon, “How can the community continue this philanthropic momentum?”

“Giving Circles,” stated Dr. Dixon.

Dr. Dixon explained, “To be a philanthropist doesn’t always mean to give your money.  You can donate time, resources, and still have a positive effect.  The concept of ‘Giving Circles’ is a powerful tool and should be embraced by the community.”  A powerful statement from a compassionate man.  I walked away from the conversation inspired to learn more about Giving Circles.

The most common questions regarding Giving Circles are as follows:

Question #1What is a Giving Circle?

Giving circles are assemblages of people who ‘pool’ their monetary and intangible resources, such as time and talent, together in order to address a common cause,” says Keesha Walker, Learning to Give (Follow them on Facebook).

Joining together with others to give back can be very rewarding and more impactful than giving on your own. Participants in giving circles are educating themselves and each other about the cause and the nonprofits they choose to support. Often times, they are also donating time and talent in addition to dollars.  Giving Circles create a hands-on environment of seeing, knowing, and becoming involved.  It allows members to see an immediate impact in their community from their resources and hard work.

The feeling of giving back is contagious! Whether small or large in size, the concept of Giving Circles is not new and has impacted various causes and communities in a positive way.

Question #2:  How Do You Start a Giving Circle?

Sharon Lipinski, explains 3 Easy Steps in creating a Giving Circle:

  • Step 1: Connect (Identify a cause you’re passionate about, and recruit friends, family, and community members who care about the same cause.)
  • Step 2: Set Your Rules (Establish ground rules for how your giving circle operates. How often do you meet? How do you collect money? How do you disburse money? How do you consider and choose charities?)
  • Step 3: Grow Your Circle (Recruit new members and keep your existing members happy.)

There is no right answer, which is the best part!  The reasons for joining a circle are as varied as the circles themselves.  Giving Circles all around the country developed their own unique strategies and have successfully impacted their communities.

Question #3:  What steps can I take today?

As the Midlands’ expert in philanthropy, the Foundation strives to promote, facilitate, and increase philanthropy within our community.  We encourage you to seek out, introduce yourself and learn more about the local Giving Circles in the area:

Women In Philanthropy (WIP) provides opportunities for strong, caring and focused women to come together to learn about financial and philanthropic issues in the area.

Cola Gives, Columbia’s first African American giving circle, organized to strategically support efforts to strengthen and improve the black community.

Women Engaged, an African American Women’s giving circle focused on sharing resources and supporting causes in communities across South Carolina.

The Foundation is here as a resource to provide assistance and guidance when needed and we also administer the funds for giving circles if desired. Feel free to contact me by email: [email protected] or phone: 803.254.5601 x 316.

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