A Side Order of Philanthropy

June 6, 2012

What happens when you bring a group of friends together for food or drinks and add a side dish of philanthropy?  You build communities at the grassroots level and from there the possibilities are endless.

In the last decade, giving circles have sprouted up across the nation among donors of all backgrounds and income levels.  Circles by and for underserved communities have pooled their funds to make significant impact in the LGBTQ, African American, Latino and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

Giving Circles are changing people and their communities by building a culture of giving.

They are addressing pressing needs in communities and are creating sustainable sources of funding for many small to medium size nonprofits that often go unnoticed.

LA AAPI Giving Circle’s dumpling and decision making party

Last year Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) launched a Five-Year Giving Circle campaign to grow 50 circles, engage 5,000 people and distribute millions of new dollars. Eighteen giving circles in AAPI communities across the nation are rallying their friends, co-workers and family members around important issues in their community. They are building democratic philanthropy by leveraging individual action for collective good.

In Los Angeles four AAPI giving circles are creating powerful ripples of change.

  • The CA Dream Circle raised over $30,000 for scholarships to undocumented Korean American college students by holding a designer sidewalk sale and leveraging all of their contacts
  • Circle of Change held a rooftop happy hour to raise awareness and money for nonprofit organizations making positive, transformative social change
  • LA AAPI Giving Circle gathered around a dinning room table, folded dumplings and discussed which emerging organizations they would fund since many of them may not have access to mainstream, funding due to the size of their program
  • Sansei Legacy, the only all male giving circle, recently distributed $13,200 to 7 Japanese American community based organizations and are providing role models to other third generation Japanese Americans to encourage community participation

Other notable giving circles in L.A. include, but are not limited to:

  • The Los Angeles Women’s Giving Circle is focused on providing funding to the development of young female Angelenos
  • The OUT Fund is dedicated to further LGBT equality and expand LGBT philanthropy among emerging and established givers

1st Annual Joint AAPI Giving Circle Celebration

The success of these giving circles is the result of a partnership between the circles, AAPIP, community foundations that fiscally host circles, and national foundations and corporations partnering with AAPIP and other organizations to match giving circles at 50%.

Imagine if every group of friends, neighborhood, and city had its own Giving Circle.

Here’s a challenge: Next time you get together with friends, family or co-workers bring up the idea of shared giving and talk about the groups charitable interests. How can you add a side dish of philanthropy to your next gathering?

Thanks for reading,

Noelle Ito is the director of community philanthropy at AAPIP.  More information about AAPIP, giving circles, and the Giving Back, Giving Together campaign can be found on the AAPIP website.

6 Responses
  1. Sandy Kajiyama says:

    I love this idea of committing resources collectively to support communities. We need to see more of this type of philanthropy.

    • Kimi Mojica says:

      Agreed. Its wonderful to see how folks in LA are taking philanthropy into their own hands, making their own decisions and addressing the needs they feel are important. Power to the people!

  2. So many creative ways to give and support worthy organizations. I had dinner at a restaurant this weekend which listed a line (for charity) on the bill right about the tip line. It was so easy for me to do my part for the cause the restaurant had chosen to support. We get asked at supermarkets to make gifts at the register. This restaurant bill/check approach is easy and an interesting approach to citizen philanthropists.

    • Noelle Ito says:

      I love the idea of restaurants offering a donation line! Such an easy way for people to give. I wonder how the transaction is made and gets to the nonprofit(s). Do you mind if I ask which restaurant? What other forms of creative philanthropy can we all think of? I’m sure the list is endless!

  3. I’m so glad to see you focusing on giving circles. The LA API Giving Circle and The Out Fund are housed at Liberty Hill and the donors who participate in them are great folks who want to get things done, make a real difference and impact L.A. Change not charity in action!

    • Noelle Ito says:

      You’re right! We’ve noticed giving circle folks like to get things done and because of that go-getter attitude they are making a significant impact all while having fun with like-minded people. Big thanks to Liberty Hill Foundation for hosting! We need more partners that can host circles.

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