I was struck a few weeks ago when I read this article in the Chronicle about the rise of anonymous giving this year. I suspect that this is due to these donors not wanted to be stalked by causes. the giving cacophony for causes is bad enough in a good economy, but the incessant pressure to give to many causes and give larger gifts in a bad economy is overwhelming.
Then I saw this report from Pam Fessler on NPR about the rise of giving circles. Giving circles certainly aren’t new, informally friends have been talking to friends about giving to causes for years, and the more formal versions really started to coalesce about fifteen years ago. But, nonetheless, it’s interesting that they’re on the rise in a bad economy. We all want to feel better now, and talking to friends about causes that we’re passionate about, what we want to share with them makes everyone feel better. Also, giving circles are a good way for everyone to give a little that adds up to more for a cause.
Then I began to think about what Katya might say about all this. And here’s my guess:
We know that donors want to a real, meaningful connection to causes. We also know that too many causes continue to treat them like an ATM machines. You gave $50 last month/quarter/year, how about $100 or $1,000 this year? Causes also treat donors like data points in a big database of givers who are never connected to one another. It simply doesn’t occur to many causes to create a network of donors rather than continue their hub and spoke model of individual to institution giving.
Let’s imagine a different way of doing this. Giving circles are generally oganized by friends to give to a variety of causes, leaving the cause in the passive position of hoping to be supported. What if causes organized giving circles to support their cause — and other causes. I know, really scary to think about organizing your own donors to possible give to other organizations, but, hey, that’s what people do. What if you took all of your donors in one zip code, regardless of how much they gave and helped them to organize a get together at someone’s house to talk about the cause. Maybe they don’t even talk about giving the first time they meet. Maybe they just to talk about the cause, what it means, what it does, how it could do better, etc. They could come back onto your Facebook page or on Twitter and share what they learned, what they thought and dreamed for the cause. And then the second meeting they begin to talk about giving to the cause.
Maybe you would get less from a big donor this way, but you’d also get more from the little donors – that’s what giving circles do. They would learn from one another, they would feel like a community rather than isolated donors. Maybe it’s worth a try! So, Katya, how’d I do?