Rob Meiksins at Nonprofit Quarterly recently noted the growing popularity of collective giving, including among young people. Meiksins cites an article in the Toledo Blade about a group of twenty-somethings in Toledo who have come together to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Some are new to fundraising, but they have big dollar goals.  

These young professionals are building camaraderie among themselves as they work together in a common cause: “What's really unique about our committee is that we are all very good friends,” 31-year-old committee member Rebecca Shope told the paper. The group gets together monthly at a Toledo restaurant to plan and socialize.

Young philanthropists are getting involved in local communities across the country. While shared philanthropy “giving circles” are effective means of philanthropy for all ages (see a 2009 study from the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, and the University of Nebraska Omaha here), giving circles are an especially attractive option for young people. For some young professionals, giving circles may serve the philanthropic function that established service clubs and fraternal organizations fulfilled for young professionals in previous generations.

In Washington, DC, in 2009, five women started Capital Cause to engage young professionals in giving circles. Young philanthropists, typically between the ages of 21 and 35, can sign up to join a small group to share volunteer and fundraising projects. Capital Cause Giving Circles have recruited mentors, sponsored urban kids to attend a healthy living camp, and helped low-income families with laundry needs. Capital Cause organizes service days to help with logistics at the DC AIDS Walk and beautification days at local schools. The day before the 2013 presidential inauguration, 500 young DC-area philanthropists joined with other organizations to promote literacy at two struggling elementary schools. Capital Cause also hosts networking mixers and industry leader brunches to draw in new participants and raise money.

In New York, the Rochester Area Community Foundation established NextGen Rochester in 2009 to pool the resources of young philanthropists (ages 21 to 45). Since then, NextGen Rochester has awarded over $43,000 to local nonprofits; the latest round of grants promoted early childhood learning, aided low-income people to obtain documents required for employment opportunities, and helped to underwrite a youth literary magazine. Members contribute at least $100 per year to the NextGen fund, and each member has a vote in the selection of grant recipients.

The Triangle Community Foundation in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, has several giving circle options for local philanthropists, including the Next Generation of African American Philanthropists, which supports a program to encourage high school students to go to college. There’s also the Beehive Collective—“Pollinating community giving in Raleigh by inspiring young women to lead.” The Beehive Collective has invested tens of thousands of dollars to promote local public transit options. 

These are just a few examples of the giving circles springing up across America. These circles hold great promise not only for their beneficiaries, but also for the young philanthropists who are getting involved. Young members of giving circles will remain friends throughout their lives, and because of those friendships, they’ll be able to join together in philanthropic and civic leadership endeavors for years to come.