Giving away more than just money

Some investors gather to eat and talk about growing their investments. A giving circle gathers to discuss who should get money being given away. Heidi Pickman reports from one circle in Palo Alto, California.

Scott Jagow: I'm sure you've heard of investment clubs. Maybe you're in one yourself. People get together, have some brie and crackers and talk about ways they can make money. Well, here's a new spin on that: a group that meets to talk about their money, and then gives it away. Here's Heidi Pickman.

Heidi Pickman: A group of 10 gathers on a Wednesday night in a Palo Alto, California living room. They're part of something called a giving circle. Each member has contributed $5,000, and with the help of Oakland-based Clarance foundation, for the past eight months, they've been learning about grassroots nonprofits that assist youth in Africa.

Tonight, they've ranked the charities by how much each member would give for their efforts. Caitlin Drews reads the results.

Caitlin Drews: Looking down the list. For Girls on the Go, no one said under $10,000. The lowest for garbage recycler was $6,000 . . .

Giving circles like this one are popping up all over the country, says the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. In 2005, the number was roughly 200. By last year, it had doubled.

Daria Teutonico is with the Forum. She says giving circles offer members a chance to do more than just throw money at a problem.

Daria Teutonico: Many people have been writing checks and supporting good work, but many of those people have felt that they wanted to do more. They wanted get more connected to a solution to problems they see in their community.

Teutonico says in past four years, giving circles in the U.S. have donated more than $100 million. Some have as many as 500 members, like Impact Austin in Texas. Last year, the group granted $400,000, mostly to programs for children. Other groups are smaller, like the 13-member Zawadi circle in New Orleans.
Christine Jordan helped found the group. She says the name "Zawadi" comes from a Swahili word for gift.

Christine Jordan: Since the focus of our giving circle is to improve the quality of life of people of African descent in New Orleans, we thought it would be appropriate to use an African term. Basically what we're doing is trying give a gift.

Back in Palo Alto, the group is deciding what their gift will be to the grassroots groups in Africa.

Giver: How about taking 500 from "Girls on the Go," giving it to YIN and calling it a day?