The Power of Giving Circles: Jefferson Community Foundation and Kitsap Community Foundation

The Power of Giving Circles: Jefferson Community Foundation and Kitsap Community Foundation

The Power of Giving Circles
Natasha Lane | Guest Contributor, Content Creator

Giving circles have existed for a long time as a way for groups of people to pool together money or resources to give away. Their popularity has grown recently, and many funders now see giving circles as an impactful tool to empower and strengthen their communities. We asked two of our community foundation members who have giving circles about what makes them so powerful.

Founded in 2005, Jefferson Community Foundation (JCF) staff and board have deep roots in the county which have placed them in a unique position to support local giving circles.

“Engaging donors is important to us and we see everyone in our community as a potential changemaker. We see giving circles as a great way to empower community members,” says Jen Kingfisher, director of community partnerships at JCF. “Some of the services we offer giving circles include information sharing, identifying needs, due diligence and grant administration. To name a few.”

Similar to other philanthropic tools, giving circles and how they are used will change depending on the unique characteristics of their respective communities. These are the finer details. However, Jen believes several general characteristics make for a strong giving circle.

“I like to think of giving circles as the book club everyone wants to be in, you know? The one where they actually read the book.”

“There’s a shared passion for the community, an issue area and a true love for the place we live. The most successful giving circles feel connected to the outcomes of the work,” Jen says. “I like to think of giving circles as the book club everyone wants to be in, you know? The one where they actually read the book.”

In Jefferson County, giving circles have been beneficial to the overall culture of philanthropy. “Having giving circles is a great way for people to understand aspects of what a community foundation does. You know, there can be intricacies to how any organization functions but through our giving circle program, donors understand what’s going on our end and where the gaps in service in the community are,” Jen says. “Not to mention, JCF gets to make these amazing connections with community members while creating champions for different organizations.”

In addition to the impact they have in Jefferson County, Jen believes giving circles help donors connect with one another through a good cause. “The power of collective impact is significant for the community to see and for people to experience together. Think of it like a type of bonding exercise with a bunch of good at the end.”

JCF is not alone in their support of giving circles. The Kitsap Community Foundation (KCF) has their Women’s Giving Circle of Kitsap Peninsula, described as a group of “socially-minded women with a deep desire” to help their community.

Tina O’Brien, the chief executive officer at KCF, explained how the giving circle began at the community foundation and its initial purpose. “The Women’s Giving Circle started in 2018, right before COVID hit. We wanted to explore doing grant-making differently and when you get a group of socially-minded women together, you can really shift the narrative of a community. They gather together for a few fun meetings each year, enjoy each other’s company, expand their knowledge and jointly decide which local nonprofits to help that year. This year, they leaned into trust-based philanthropy for their grantmaking and are providing learnings for our foundation to improve our own competitive grant process.”

Kitsap’s Women’s Giving Circle provides grants to organizations focused on aiding women and children. When asked why there was such a heavy focus on supporting causes centering on women, Tina had a simple answer. “We all know that once you support women, you transform society.”

Similar to JCF, the impact the Women’s Giving Circle has had within the community isn’t limited to grant-giving. “Members of the Women’s Giving Circle of the Kitsap Peninsula are driven to make our communities a better place. Because members are from different parts of the county, the gatherings provide an opportunity to build bridges. People from different parts of the region can connect and discuss what’s happening in their respective communities and solve problems.” Tina says.

Tina agreed there are several philanthropic tools foundations can use to amplify their work. What makes giving circles so powerful?

“It’s all about the passion of the circle members,” Tina says. “That’s what makes giving circles powerful.”

Interested in learning more about giving circles, their potential for community building, and how they can partner with institutional funders as part of a thriving philanthropic ecosystem? Join us for our upcoming Philanthropy Northwest Network Call on February 16 to further explore the impact of giving circles.