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  • Author or Editor: Angela M. Eikenberry x
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Recent efforts to grow philanthropy in the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland have focused on increasing the number of donors and size of donations, rather than on developing new methods of giving, despite this latter approach sharing the same objective. This article explores the rise of one such new vehicle – giving circles – defined as groups of individuals who donate money and/or time and have a say in the distribution of these resources. Scholarship on giving circles has largely focused on the United States (US), yet they are found increasingly in other parts of the world. This article focuses on how giving circles in the UK and Ireland are structured and administered; how and why they are formed; their key activities; typical characteristics of members; and why people join. It concludes by noting distinctive characteristics of giving circles in the UK and Ireland and setting out a future programme to further understanding in this area.

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The purpose of this chapter is to draw on experience doing collaborative philanthropy research, specifically on giving circles or giving collaboratives (GCs), to argue for doing practically relevant and critical research despite the potential challenges, such as philosophical and political tensions.

GCs are collaborative forms of philanthropy in which members pool donations and decide together where these are given. They also frequently include social, educational and engagement opportunities for members, connecting them to their communities and to one another (Eikenberry, 2009). One example of a US-based GC is Washington Womenade, which holds regular volunteer-organised potluck dinners where attendees donate $35 to a fund that provides financial assistance to individuals (primarily women) who need help paying for things like prescriptions, utility bills and rent. In 2002, a Real Simple magazine story (Korelitz, 2002) on Washington Womenade led to the creation of dozens of unaffiliated Womenade groups across the country. This article also inspired Marsha Wallace to start Dining for Women, which is now a national network of more than 400 chapters across the US in which women meet for dinner monthly and pool funds they would have spent eating out, to support internationally based grassroots programmes helping women around the world. Another example of a GC in the UK is BeyondMe. It started in 2011 in London, made up of small groups or teams of young professionals affiliated with a particular corporation (for example, Deloitte or PwC) who select a charity or social enterprise with which to partner for the year, providing funding and professional pro bono support. Members of the team give £15 per month, with total funding to the beneficiary organisation amounting to between £3,000 and £5,000, and volunteer support of around 150 hours.

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