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Giving circles leverage gifts for charities

'Shared Giving' circle created at UU Church in NC.
By Staff Writer
Fall 2005 8.15.05

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A few years ago Marilyn and Don Hartman were reviewing their charitable giving and noticed a number of $25 to $50 contributions. They wondered if such small sums really made a difference.

In researching that question, the Hartmans learned about “giving circles,” groups of people who meet regularly to learn about charities together and then pool their donations. They decided to create such a circle at their church, the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham, North Carolina—making them leaders in a new UU philanthropic movement.

The Hartmans’ circle, called Shared Giving, requires members to donate at least $500 annually to the group, giving it a pool of about $10,000. (Other circles may require less.) The group then chooses local organizations in need of sizeable donations. It gave the local mental health association $2,500 to send ten special-needs children to summer camp when state funding was cut. The circle gave another organization $1,500 for a staff retreat it desperately needed, something it couldn’t justify in its regular budget. The circle has also donated to an afterschool program for low-income families, an organization that helps seniors understand their medications, a family-violence-prevention center, and an interfaith council’s food pantry.

“I like the idea of investing money in our own community and watching it do something,” Marilyn Hartman said. “We can only do so much good in life. Let’s do it in our own community.” Shared Giving members often also volunteer with the groups they support. Eno River now has a second giving circle called InfUUsion.

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