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For Community-Driven Global Development

Trends in Philanthropy: Corporate Giving Circles Spark Global Citizenry

In a recent edition of Alliance magazine, the Ford Foundation’s Chris Cardona heralded “participatory philanthropy” as a philanthropic practice of particular popularity given its inclusive and collegial nature.

“People are becoming distrustful of established institutions, including foundations, and are demanding greater accountability and transparency,” he wrote. “Across sectors, elite-driven, top-down decision-making is increasingly viewed with suspicion, if not outright hostility.”

Indeed, a Program Officer for Philanthropy, Cardona is committed to “improv(ing) philanthropic practice—in our own organization and the broader field—with a special emphasis on making it more equitable and inclusive.”  These are principles that we at FSD share.

In many ways, Giving Circles are a philanthropic idea whose time has come. “We knew there was a large group of people who wanted to support our work, but who didn’t have the time or resources to travel abroad,” said Julia Smith, FSD’s Development Lead. “Giving Circles allow people to be involved in building communities from afar—and see exactly where their money is going.”

In 2018, we look forward to expanding our successful Giving Circles launch with corporate entities and individuals alike. Splunk, Inc., the high-profile San Francisco software firm, just introduced its second Giving Circle cycle to support our international work. With an entry contribution of $100, Splunk employees will meet to review FSD’s current projects at our six global sites, then decide which one to fund. During the three-month giving cycle, members can increase their personal contributions, elicit donations through their social networks (online and in-person), and/or host special giving events. “Giving circles are an important tool in Splunk’s suite of community-based giving strategies,” says Corey Marshall, Splunk4Good Director, Splunk. “These provide a new and interesting way for Splunk employees to engage in collaborative giving, decide as a team what projects are important to them and determine where they think their money will have the most impact."

For more information on personal or corporate Giving Circles, please visit or be in touch with Julia Smith at