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Donor circles — a new way of getting involved

Published on: 20 Jun 2019

Category: Articles

Donor circles are an effective way to raise funds and direct donors’ attention – from individuals to companies and organizations – to the community impact of sustained projects. The fundraising model was created by The Funding Network (TFN) in the UK in 2002, an association that later supported the Association for Community Relations (ARC) to implement the concept in Romania.

How do donor circles work?

In fundraising sessions both non-governmental organizations and initiative groups can participate – the latter, unlike NGOs, have no legal personality but are simply citizens. The projects proposed for funding are briefly presented to the donors and they decide individually whether they want to support the projects and what amount they can donate.

Donors come from diverse backgrounds: individuals interested in making a donation in a strategic and informed manner, as well as representatives of companies. The minimum threshold for donations is usually small, around 50-100 Ron – encouraging the participation and interest of some of the most extensive social categories in this increasingly popular philanthropic model. On average, according to statistics, the individual donation is between 150-200 ron – not a very large amount, but enough to have an impact when the number of donors increases.

At present, over 20 organizations in Romania organize donor circles, and all have started their work under the guidance of the Association for Community Relations.

Case study: PACT Association

The PACT Association focuses on projects with community impact in rural areas, having a rich experience in the development of community organizations. The Association established in 2005 develops each project on the basis of a comprehensive “Learning, Training and Trust” program designed by Allavida, a British development agency.

Since 2013, donor circle meetings have begun and the first projects funded were: 2 traditional tailoring and traditional sewing workshops (Cocorăştii, Găujani) and a handicraft workshop made of wicker and rushes (Făcăeni). Other projects that were initiated by donations from the donor circle, as well as with the guidance and counseling of the PACT Association, aim at: improving access to education, creating jobs, supporting small businesses, solving urgent community problems, and cultural and entertainment projects to improve the quality of community life.

Trends in charity and philanthropy

In Romania, both the number of donors and the amount or frequency of donations slightly increases year by year. According to a study by ARC Romania, the philanthropic behaviour of Romanians is predominantly occasional – they support a cause or a project through a single donation, but rarely get actively involved in larger projects.

In essence, the term “charity” is a better term to describe the way that Romanians approach philanthropic actions – for economic reasons, but also because of the average educational background. Donors’ circles adjust and improve this approach, creating a much more active involvement, opening lines for dialogue and collaboration, inviting donors and beneficiaries to assume roles in a more productive way for their intended purposes.