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As a tool to democratize and diversify philanthropy, engage new donors, increase local giving and more, giving circles and crowdfunding are some of the most popular and rapidly spreading strategies for collective giving being promoted today.
While some of the oldest giving circles have existed for decades, the majority have only formed in the last few years and new models and networks of giving circles continue to emerge. The Johnson Center is partnering with a team of researchers on a new survey of the giving circle landscape and initial estimates from that research indicate that more than 1,200 giving circles exist in the U.S. alone, almost double the number from a decade ago. We have seen even more rapid growth in crowdfunding with estimates from 2013 to 2014 showing that donation- and reward-based crowdfunding platforms grew dramatically (45% and 84% respectively) and totaled over $3 billion worldwide in 2014.
The momentum for growth and diversification of crowdfunding platforms and giving circles as approaches to philanthropy will only continue to expand and be an increasingly important facet of the philanthropic landscape in the years to come. For the Johnson Center, this offers an opportunity for new work to inform the field. For example, while we know that considerable growth is taking place, it has been nearly a decade since the last systematic scan of giving circle activity in the U.S. and no work has yet examined the variety of new giving circle models to emerge in the U.S. in recent years even though they continue to evolve and grow in number. Additionally, there has been little scholarly research on the impact of these emerging efforts, on both their members and host organizations, and none yet to understand the impact of giving circles over time. The Kellogg Chair will be working toward research on the impact of giving circles as well as developing training and insights for nonprofit leaders and grantmakers about how to access and engage with crowdfunding.