In Abundance: An Analysis of the Thriving Landscape of Collective Giving in the U.S.

Blog post by Adriana Loson-Ceballos, Michael D. Layton

Community Data & Research Lab at the Johnson Center   (Grand Rapids)

Philanthropy today faces many critical and complex challenges that are both uniquely urgent for our sector and grounded in wider forces beyond our control. Within this dynamic context, collective giving — a tradition observed across cultures worldwide and grounded in the ethos of community agency — has emerged as a growing force in U.S. philanthropy.

The most recent landscape survey of collective giving in the United States, published in 2017 by the Collective Giving Research Group, found that more than 150,000 philanthropists within 1,600 groups had distributed approximately $1.29 billion through the collective giving movement (Bearman et al, 2017). While giving is not a one-to-one update of that research, the growth charted from that report to this one is hugely significant.

The movement is now on a trajectory to double again in the next five years, underscoring its growing appeal and potential to profoundly reshape the philanthropic landscape.

Beyond these astonishing numbers, the research shared in the following pages shows how collective giving groups are engaging everyday givers and moving resources in ways that traditional philanthropy is not. Participants are contributing not only their treasure, but also their time, talent, testimony, and ties (summed up as the “5Ts of philanthropy”) to the groups they belong to, to the nonprofits and causes those groups support, and, ultimately, to their larger communities. Overwhelmingly populated by women — and incorporating a substantial community of donors of color — these groups are intentionally supporting historically marginalized communities and community organizations, leaning in to learning as donors and individuals, and inspiring increased levels of civic action and agency.

The key actors in the philanthropic ecosystem — including collective giving group leaders and members, donors, foundations, philanthropy support organizations, and researchers — all stand to gain valuable insights from and can contribute significantly to this vibrant and expanding field.