Generosity_Collective-giving

When it comes to good news stories in philanthropy, the rise of collective giving is hard to beat.

Engagement, access and fun are just a few of the reasons why collective giving is getting bigger each year.

Not only does collective giving break down the barriers to entry for philanthropy, it also quashes outdated stereotypes about what a philanthropist looks like.

Generosity recently invited senior representatives of 13 Australian collective giving groups to share their experience and wisdom. Ten responded:

Rikki Andrews, Impact100 Melbourne

Lesley Rae, Women & Change

Tina Jackson, Impact100 Sydney and Impact100 Sydney North

Gillian Hund, Melbourne Women’s Fund

Lisa Cotton, The Funding Network

Lesley Harris, ACT of Women Giving

Georgia Matthews, The Channel

Jenny Newmarch, 10 x 10

Stacey Thomas, Impact100 SA

Alicia Curtis, 100 Women.

 

Why do you think collective giving has been so popular in Australia? 

Collective giving has enormous potential in Australia because it’s such a powerful idea. By pooling intellectual and financial resources we can create a ripple effect in the community. We’re doing more with less, the world gets better, the giver has an enriched life, others are inspired to give, and the cycle grows. While the multiplier effect of collaborative giving is the most obvious, there are many more benefits: giving that is intentional and strategic and knowing how your money is being spent, creating a measurable impact, hands-on learning about philanthropy and local communities and causes, being part of a community of like-minded people and sharing the joy of giving.

Philanthropy is no longer just the preserve of the very wealthy. By joining the collective giving movement, philanthropy is within the reach of most of us, and that’s very empowering.

Tina Jackson, Impact100 Sydney and Impact100 Sydney North

 

Most people want to give back in some way but don’t know how. They ask questions like ‘How will I know my donation will be spent well? Which organisations should I give to? How will my donation make a difference?’ Collective giving makes this process easier and people know their donation is being amplified by being given together with others. Plus you get the other benefits of giving too, like joining together with like-minded people and attending inspiring events!

Alicia Curtis, 100 Women

 

I believe there’s a moral hunger from mass-affluent Australians for community connection that’s not being met and that’s driving the emergence and growth of collective giving models. The other reason is that it’s open, participatory and peer-driven, unlike more traditional philanthropic structures. We’ve witnessed this at Funding Network (TFN) events where the benefits of giving together, social connections made and the evocation of gratitude combine to create an addictive experience. But importantly, this practice is providing an opportunity for us all to play a role in solutions to community problems.

Lisa Cotton, The Funding Network

 

Collective giving provides an opportunity for high impact giving to be accessible.  Whether it is a $100 or a $1,000 entry point, everyone can get involved. For Impact100 SA we also have a very social group. Our events committee works hard to put on a couple of events each year that are things as an individual you wouldn’t normally have access to. It makes the ‘collective’ part of giving a lot of fun.

Stacey Thomas, Impact100 SA

 

Passion of the founders of the group and other champions such as Philanthropy Australia, Generosity [ed’s note: thanks Rikki!] etc, plus low entry point, ‘major donor feeling’.

Rikki Andrews, Impact100 Melbourne

 

Have these forms of collective giving really been so popular in Australia? There’s certainly been a groundswell of activity in the space, and the few circles/organisations that have been formed have enjoyed some great success so far, but there still aren’t all that many of them. To me, collective giving is such an engaging and empowering activity to take part in, with so much potential to create positive change, I’m surprised there isn’t an abundance of groups popping up all over the country as awareness grows.

Georgia Matthews, The Channel

 

The principle of giving circles is a very attractive one for all ages. We find that women love the collective aspect and we are all more aware (than in the past) about philanthropy. Plus it’s an easier entry point to being involved in philanthropy in one (or many) of its iterations. Having circles created for different membership groups (women only, men and women, online forum etc) allows members to choose the group they want to support. There are also crossover memberships, people who are members of several—how wonderful!

Gillian Hund, Melbourne Women’s Fund

 

I don’t think it’s just an Australian phenomenon but I see each generation becomes increasingly time poor. Belonging to a collective giving community not only enables members to share resources and knowledge but also offers an opportunity to combine giving with networking and/or socialising with like-minded people.

Jenny Newmarch 10 x 10

 

It facilitates community connection, there is a clear line of sight with regards to where funds go, generally the funds are given to local groups, people can see where funds have made a difference. I think the concept of learning about the groups through word of mouth works well – people trust their friends/colleagues, and would potentially be more likely to participate in this type of giving if a trusted friend or colleague has recommended it. The social and participatory aspects of collective giving are appealing to people.

Lesley Harris, ACT of Women Giving

 

They’re a powerful way for people to engage in philanthropy, often at a giving level that is beyond what the individual usually gives to an organisation. There’s a sense of becoming a philanthropist for the individual due to the combined amount that is given by the group. Giving circles often support smaller grassroots organisations where they can make a big impact with their funding. The web-like nature of collective giving, which branches out and invites other prospective members to join outside of the immediate friends/networks of the original founding group, maximises informal social ties that builds community and expands networks.

Lesley Rae, Women & Change

 

Best story/quote/experience you’ve heard/seen/witnessed at a collective giving event? 

There is nothing better than getting that tingling feeling at our grants celebration evenings when you hear about the amazing projects we are giving to and thinking “We created this, we started this from scratch, this funding didn’t exist before a group of everyday Australians came together to pool our time, expertise and money.” You can’t beat that feeling!

Alicia Curtis, 100 Women

 

Susan Alberti AC signing up as a life member to the Melbourne Women’s Fund at the launch event was a pretty special moment. I hadn’t started The Channel yet, but feeling the goodwill and excitement in the room that night had me sold on giving circles. Susan could have quietly donated $20k to an organisation helping women and their families in Melbourne (MWF’s focus), but instead she recognised the added impact the grant would have in building momentum. That’s the additional value proposition of collective giving, the social nature of it. I’m all for inspiring more giving by doing it publicly.

Georgia Matthews, The Channel

 

The contagion effect that occurs in group giving situations is a significant contributor to the success of TFN’s live events. At our recent Arts-Intervention event in Melbourne with Creative Partnerships Australia, social enterprise HoMie that provides new clothing, training and job opportunities to people experiencing homelessness, proved just how egalitarian collective giving can be. After a passionate pitch, pledging support for HoMie was just shy of $20,000 – the amount the other charities had achieved on the night. Just as pledging was about to end, a young woman at the back of the auditorium stood up and said that she has been affected by homelessness and volunteered for HoMie, which had recently employed her. She was just about to get her first (small) pay packet and declared that she would give $100, if it could be matched with $1,000 from 10 other people. With that emotional challenge, 15 hands flew up in the air tipping HoMie over the $20,000 mark, and leaving people a wonderful memory that collective giving is for everyone from those with modest means to our affluent.

Lisa Cotton, The Funding Network

 

Women with tears in their eyes at the granting ceremony – so happy to be part of making such a difference!!

Gillian Hund, Melbourne Women’s Fund

 

Seeing members genuinely appreciate the organisations that present to them, and open their networks and resources beyond their membership contribution has been amazing.  A number of organisations have received so much more than their monetary grant, often unbeknownst to the greater membership, after their story and presentation resonated with a member.

Stacey Thomas, Impact100 SA

 

Hearing about the impact that the funding from our giving circle has had on the small organisations we’ve supported – collective giving truly does provide transformational gifts to organisations. The members coming together, whether it’s for an education event; a networking event; a social event; or for the voting event when members see and hear from the finalists about the programs our group will give our funding to, it’s a wonderful thing.

Lesley Rae, Women & Change

 

Things you know now that you wished you’d known when you were just starting out on your collective giving journey? 

When we started we definitely didn’t have any huge expertise or experience in setting up a giving circle. To be honest, I didn’t even know of the term ‘giving circle’! We gathered a group of women who were passionate about the issues affecting women and had expertise in a huge range of areas such as finance, business development, marketing, membership, governance and grant making.  This diversity of skills allowed us to jump in with two feet and learn more about philanthropy and the power of giving.

Alicia Curtis, 100 Women

 

The time required to maintain the passion and engage with potential members. You really need to have 3-5 members who have the time to drive the momentum.

Rikki Andrews, Impact100 Melbourne

 

It does take a lot of work in all stages – planning/establishing/maintaining the group in your so called “spare time”! We probably didn’t realise the amount of time when we began! MWF did however set the bar high in terms of all aspects of our interaction with members—from the organising and running of multiple events to our different forms of communications, so we will need to make sure we are able to maintain this into the future. Establishing working committees and an executive committee (including chairs of sub committees) has really helped spread the workload and it means more members can take leadership roles.

Gillian Hund, Melbourne Women’s Fund

 

Our biggest learning has been that people need to be able to touch and feel the charities via live events to make them really engage and feel good about parting with their dollars. When we have tried to follow up with offline models that take up rate versus live events has been underwhelming so far.

Jenny Newmarch 10 x 10

 

We are only just over 6 months old, it is certainly taking more time than I thought, but the passion is still high so I don’t mind. I am concerned about burnout though and am taking advice to engage an advisory panel to share the load. I’ve also realised I need to set expectations up front as to the type of commitment required from others so they are aware, plus I am trying to be strategic and engage people with great networks as well as the skills required (for example media/communications). I’ve also realised how ‘giving’ is a very personal thing, where some people ask lots and lots of questions about the model, I sense others go with their gut instincts and donate without too many questions at all. I also think it’s really funny that some people see me and say – ‘oh I must donate’ and never do – I really don’t know why they do that…and it is the quiet ones who don’t say anything who usually do donate! Learning: don’t hold an event in the middle of winter on a weeknight! We recently hosted a documentary on behalf of Seven Women and after hours of promotion and work only 15 turned up, a bit disappointing!

Lesley Harris, ACT of Women Giving

 

Never underestimate the desire of members to get involved. We have a large number of very active members which has meant that each year we have tested and modified how we run our events and volunteering opportunities. Also, the importance of getting members to the end of year event. Even though we have high engagement, the real magic happens when you have over 200 people in a room collectively coming together to support organisations.

Stacey Thomas, Impact100 SA

 

I wish that in our first year we’d had a better membership retention strategy in place.
Lesley Rae, Women & Change

 

TFN’s biggest learning is successful collective giving is not about the amount of funds that are pooled, it’s about giving people a meaningful and memorable experience so they come back and spread the word among friends. We learnt this lesson the hard way when we first started out. We were intent on getting to a $10,000 target for each pitching charity at a Perth event. Towards the end of the evening we were pushing the audience to the reach the targets when someone shouted that they would write a cheque for the remaining amount so they could go home! I really wanted the ground to open up at that stage! That was a salient lesson.

Lisa Cotton, The Funding Network

 

READ: Part 2 of our collective giving special, The future of collective giving.

 

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