Photo of handshake and quote: Helping organizations better define who they are, what they do, how they do it, and why anyone should care!

Branding Bytes Archives

Issue 35:
Thoughts On Using Social Media

Issue 34:
Reigning in Public-Private Partnerships

Issue 33:
Seven Ways to Avoid Toxicity In the Workplace

Issue 32:
A Few Bad Apples Bruise the Brand

Issue 31:
Branding Beyond the Logo

Issue 30:
The Yin and Yang of Celebrity Leadership

Issue 29:
Want to Raise More Funds? SPEAK UP!

Issue 28:
Government Funding Cuts: Act!

Issue 27:
"We Are Sorry":
Your Brand is Your Behavior

Issue 26:
Tell Your Story

Issue 25:
Good Leaders

Issue 24:
Think "People,"
Not "Organization"

Issue 23:
What's in a Name?
Just about Everything!

Issue 22:
Is Your Mission
Getting Creepy?

Issue 21:
Welcome to the Age
of the New Normal

Issue 20:
"Receptionist" vs Director of First Brand Impressions

Issue 19:
It's Not About How Your Message is Delivered

Issue 18:
When it Comes to Your Brand, Details Matter

Issue 17:
A Good Brand Requires TLC: Just Ask My Wife!

Issue 16:
Toxic-Work-Environment Syndrome Can Tarnish Your Brand

Issue 15:
Adjusting to the
New Face of Need

Issue 14:
Tired of all the Doom and Gloom? This is Your Time!

Issue 13:
A New Year's Resolution: Don't Cut Off Your Nose

Issue 12:
What You Do Is
About All of Us

Issue 11:
Ethical Standards
and Your Organization

Issue 10:
Leadership: Whose Journey is it, Anyway?

Issue 9:
Giving Circles
and Branding

Issue 8:
The World's Richest Men
— and Philanthropy

Issue 7:
What is an External
Brand Audit?

Issue 6:
Keeping Everyone
on Brand Message

Issue 5:
What is an Internal
Brand Audit?

Issue 4:
Turn Board Members into Better Brand Ambassadors

Issue 3:
Leadership, Vision
— and Branding

Issue 2:
What's 1st—Organization or Brand? / Govt. Cuts?—Branding Helps

Issue 1:
Branding Myths

Issue 9, Winter 2008

Giving Circles and Branding

Q. What are Giving Circles, and what do they have to do with branding our organization?

A. If you haven't yet heard of Giving Circles, you're about to. In the coming years Giving Circles have the potential to swell into a tsunami of grassroots philanthropy, and your organization's brand may make the difference as to whether or not you are the recipient of their generosity.

What are Giving Circles?

Simply stated, Giving Circles, sometimes referred to as Shared Giving, are philanthropic-minded people who, often as part of a social activity, give together to support charitable organizations. In fact, at least one circle, the Giving Circle of Hope in Reston, Virginia, refers to its activities as "fun with a purpose."

Giving Circles may count as few as four members or as many as several hundred, and their giving ranges from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

For example, in Key Biscayne, Florida, 20 moms — many of whom are Latina — founded the Smart Women with Spare Change Giving Circle. By contributing their spare change each month, the members have raised nearly $5,000 to invest in organizations that help women and girls. In Texas, a Giving Circle called Impact Austin, established in May 2003, claims more than 400 members, each of whom donates $1,000, per year. Last year Impact Austin invested $104,000 in each of four local nonprofits that fit their giving criteria — for a total of $416,000!

Regardless of giving amounts, Giving Circles present civic-minded individuals an opportunity to multiply the impact of their giving — and nonprofit organizations with an opportunity to cultivate new sources of revenue.

"With the same amount of money you'd use to write a check to a charity, you get to make more of a difference, spend more time with friends, and learn more about what your community needs." says Daria Teutonico, director of the New Ventures in Philanthropy Initiative at the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.

What we know about Giving Circles

Five years ago, few people had ever heard of a Giving Circle. In 2006, the New Ventures in Philanthropy Initiative at the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, in a nationwide survey, documented 400 Giving Circles across the U.S., at least one in nearly every state. An article in the January 2007 Delta Sky Magazine by Linda Daily entitled, "Just Causes — The Giving Back Gang", estimated there may be as many as 800 of these philanthropic entities.

Regardless of their numbers, to get an idea of the impact of Giving Circles, the Forum's survey sampled 160 circles across the country, and in June 2007 released a report of its findings called "More Giving Together". It found that:

Are there any downsides to Giving Circles?

Are you aware of anything that doesn't have a downside? But the ones mentioned below appear to be eminently manageable.

Research conducted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and published in a March 2007 report called Giving Circles and Fundraising in the New Philanthropy Environment, says that Giving Circles are not always consistent in the expectations they place on nonprofits and may not sustain their giving over the long haul.

The AFP report adds that Giving Circles can be too focused on donors, creating challenges for charities to figure out quickly how to work with a mix of personalities and deal with donors who want to take a hands-on approach to their giving.

What this suggests to me is that when it comes to both giving and receiving, there should be a clear, upfront understanding of what is expected on the part of Giving Circles, as well as the nonprofits they seek to support. If both parties know what is expected of the other, each stands to gain from the giving-receiving transaction.

What does branding have to do with any of this?

Depending on the communities in which they are located, as well as their giving criteria, individual Giving Circles have scores, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of nonprofits from which to choose to give their money. What do you think your chances would be of receiving their largesse if your organization was one of those "best kept secrets" that does wonderful work, but no one really knows who you are, what you do, how you do it — and why they should care enough to support you?

Although it may not always be the case, there is evidence that many Giving Circles also are seeking to support nonprofits that are transparent in their operations, hold themselves accountable for their behavior and can demonstrate measureable results and outcomes (see Branding Bytes #8).

According to Sandy Bettger, executive director of the Giving Circles Network, feedback from the GCN Giving Circles Advisory Panel, comprised of representatives from Giving Circles from across the U.S., nonprofits should consider the following brand characteristics when appealing to all donors, including Giving Circles:

"These are all the things a nonprofit should consider as it develops its 'brand' to distinguish itself from other organizations," says Bettger.

As always, I look forward to receiving your feedback, questions, success stories and branding challenges. Also, if you are in need of a motivational speaker, trainer, branding consultant/coach, or management consultant who can help you answer the questions: Who are we? What do we do? How do we do it? And should anyone care? I invite you to for more information.

In the meantime, good luck with your branding! — Larry

About Branding Bytes

Branding Bytes is a FREE quarterly e-newsletter courtesy of Larry Checco of Checco Communications. Please feel free to forward Branding Bytes on to others. However, Branding Bytes is copyrighted and may not be reprinted or reproduced without attributing Larry Checco of Checco Communications as its source and providing the following website address: Thank you.


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