Giving Circles: a Tool for Engaging Youth in Giving

We often hear that young people are the leaders of tomorrow. But what if we started to think about them and support them to be leaders today? What does that mean and how would it look?

Philanthropy gives us an opportunity to work with youth on developing life skills such as decision-making, collaboration and, more importantly, empowering youth as leaders in their communities. Engaging youth in philanthropy gives them the ability to make decisions that impact their lives, their communities, and society as a whole.

At AAPIP (Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy), we are utilizing the giving circle model to introduce and engage youth in philanthropy through our National Giving Circle Network.

Over the past decade of cultivating giving circles in the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, AAPIP has supported a diverse national network of circles including youth and family giving circles.

A giving circle is a small group of people who pool their resources (time, talent, and treasure) together to affect positive change. Giving Circles provide social networks, leadership development, peer support, and collaborative learning among its members. They offer a creative and simple vehicle for youth and families to learn about and engage in philanthropy.

Here are a few reasons why the giving circle model is a great vehicle for youth philanthropy:

1- Arming Youth with Knowledge and Skills

The Giving Circle model is a vehicle that provides youth with learning opportunities and skills building. Youth in the AAPIP National Giving Circle Network are involved from the early stage of circle formation, throughout the grantee research and selection process, and finally to celebrate and reflect on their giving. Along the way, youth strengthen existing skills while developing new ones. More importantly, participating in a giving circle also enables youth members to explore and learn about issues impacting their communities and the organizations that are working to address these issues.

“I love reading what they plan on doing with the money like how they plan on bettering the community. It’s really great because some issues or some problems I didn’t even know existed and to know that there is an organization that is out there trying to solve that problem is really amazing and it gives me much more perspective of what I can do to help better the world.” – Taylor Her, 15, member of the Building More Philanthropy with Purpose Giving Circle, Minnesota

2- Building Youth-Adult Partnerships

It’s empowering and rewarding to do this as a family. Adults, whether family members or adult mentors, play a key role in our youth giving circles by creating an environment that allows youth to participate fully. Adults often provide structure and guidance, but because Giving Circles by nature are democratic and encourage equal participation from everyone, it builds a culture of shared learning and collaboration. When structured properly, giving circles link multiple generations to participate in philanthropy. Youth and adults share the responsibility of reviewing and discussing grant applications and collaborate to make decisions.

3- Keeping Things Fun and Simple

Giving Circles are often created from pre-existing networks of friends, families, or shared interest, which means meetings are often filled with good food and lots of laughter! We encourage giving circles to organize their meetings and events around things they already love to do. Changing Our Community, a Los Angeles based giving circle, was formed from a shared culture and a love of basketball. The members met through a Japanese cultural exchange program and continued to see each other regularly through their basketball league so there was never a need to plan additional meetings for giving circle work. When it was time to plan their fundraiser, it was a no brainer to host a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. It was $20 to register with the winning team receiving half of the total pot and the other half going to their giving circle fund.

To learn more about the AAPIP National Giving Circle Network, visit our website at

AAPIP expands and mobilizes resources for AAPI communities to build a more just and equitable society. The AAPIP National Giving Circle Campaign is the concrete expression of community philanthropy. It is an opportunity to harness community resources, build awareness of community needs, and inspire and foster the spirit of individual giving.