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Let’s revisit the concept of philanthropic “circles.” If you are a donor who is fluent with giving vehicles, you understand that the giving circle is a vehicle for financial giving, where a group of individuals pools their money, time, talents, or trust together to give for a specific cause, charity, or outreach project.

This post is taking a “think different” approach to look more closely at the philanthropic concept of a “circle” in the context of engagement with others, specifically those who influence a donor’s giving. I have coined these types of circles as influence circles.

In Our DNA

We all have this inherent need to give, and we turn to others — our influence circles — to engage in conversation, make meaning of our lives, and bring purpose to our days. We all have within ourselves a deep desire to give. It is in our DNA to reach out, transcend oneself, and give to others and causes that are important and meaningful to us. Giving to the family is about giving to causes and passions to find strong roots in our life’s journey. Let me share some insights into three types of giving circles deep within us.

In a nutshell, there are three influence circles. They are

1. Your inner circle,

2. Your advisory circle, and

3. The outer beneficiary circle.

The Inner Circle

The purpose of this post is to dive more deeply into the concept of the inner circle. The inner circle of the giving relationship reflects the inner concept of our philanthropic giving.

This first giving circle represents those people, events, causes and institutions that are truly important to us. Our emotional attachment and loyalties decrease as we radiate out from ourselves and families to our local communities and causes (e.g., our church, hometown, and local groups). On a very broad and conceptual basis, the answer to who we give to are those people, causes, and institutions that bring us the most meaning based on our life’s experiences.

It identifies those people, family, or friends, that we love, care for, and trust that they will always have our best interests at heart. In most cases, they will care for us and serve as a sounding board for our innermost thoughts. Let’s briefly review and discuss the members of your inner circle. As a donor, your inner circle members include:

  1. Your significant other,
  2. Life learners or those of the younger generation,
  3. Elders or those of an older generation, and
  4. A trusted guide and/or donor coach.

Ideally, our giving is to our inner circle first because they are the ones we love and care for. This first giving circle is based on our emotional attachments to those people, causes, and institutions that are closest to us and then radiates out from us and our family.

Your significant other may be a spouse or a very dear friend who is always there for you when you need help, through good times and bad. They always have your back.

Life-learners typically are your children or those you care for deeply and you serve as a role model for. You want them to succeed in life in all the different ways we measure success.

Elders are typically parents or a mentor you have learned from, guided you during your life journey, and instilled values, character, and wisdom in you.

The guide or donor coach is either an educational course or program; or an individual that provides professional guidance. Whether it be a course of instruction or an individual donor coach (or both), they light your path and show you how to become a better donor and giver of self. Like other members of the inner circle, the donor coach serves as a fiduciary for you, a sounding board, and as a resource to guide you on a better and more effective path, giving both to your family and those causes are meaningful and important to you.

The donor guide or coach serves as an inner circle engagement facilitator. For example, if the guide is an educational course, it may be used as a reason for the donor to approach and engage other members of the inner circle in meaningful conversations. If you have a donor coach as part of the inner circle, he or she has the experience and expertise to facilitate conversations with questions; as well as \share giving options and considerations. In either case, whether it be an online course (as a guide) or an actual professional donor coach, it is important to have one or both to become more donor proficient, effective, and impactful with your giving.

There you have it — a brief summary of this first circle - the inner circle. The first circle is the most important circle of the three because it consists of those closest to you who bring meaning and purpose to your life.

Let’s Do Some Good!


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©2020 Aspire to Give®. All Rights Reserved. Greg Doepke is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® and a Certified Financial Planner®. Greg serves as the Philanthropist in Residence at Auburn University’s Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies; as well as on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Advisors in Philanthropy. As an author and founder of Aspire to Give® Greg empowers individual donors with the road-map and know-how to give more effectively and gain more meaning from their generosity. You can contact Greg at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Disclosure: Aspire to Give® is a social enterprise that donates 100% of profits to charity.