Case Study Sector
This research explores and communicates the lessons learned from two giving circles initiated in Maryland: the Baltimore Women’s Giving Circle (BWGC) and the Women’s Giving Circle (WGC) of Howard County. The purposes of the research were to:
- Document how the decisions made during startup through early grantmaking affect circle operations and the overall resource commitment of participants and host organizations.
- Understand the financial and organizational underpinnings necessary for hosting a successful, sustainable giving circle.
- Identify and share lessons learned for both those who want to start a giving circle and potential host organizations.
As both of the circles in our study are still relatively young, we focused our research on the lessons learned from start-up and early grantmaking experiences. Although the research was geared primarily toward community foundations and potential circle founders, we hope that the learnings also inform the field of philanthropy generally. The lessons learned have been many. Successful, sustainable circles require significant volunteer leadership and mutually beneficial and reinforcing relationships with the right host. In particular, our research suggests that giving circles should be capable of operating almost autonomously (within the terms of the hosting agreement) and are best hosted by foundations with a significant capacity to meet a newly formed circle’s resource demands. In the absence of existing capacity, considerable start-up resources should be sought. These resources would serve not only to initiate the circle but also to further the foundation’s organizational development.
- Field Building
- Northern America