Chapel Hill: Opinion

For greater giving, join the circle – Ellie Kinnaird


Orange County folks, like many in our country, are giving people.

In fact, the United States is unique for its generosity. Everything from whales to neglected children, from elephants to the homeless, tug at our heartstrings and we open our wallets.

The need is always before us. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with requests in our mailboxes – and emails – that we either give haphazardly and sporadically or not at all.

Part of our generosity arises from the fact that our government does not provide the necessary services that European countries do. We are forced to take up the slack because of our very conservative national political philosophy. (I won’t get into the question of “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps” when you don’t have any boots, much less straps, or individual responsibility when you can’t even pay the rent on your minimum wage.) Interestingly, research has found that poor people give more proportionally to charities than the wealthy.

We have many local organizations that do a good job and where our help goes a long way. Habitat for Humanity and the Triangle Community Foundation are good examples for giving and volunteering.

But sometimes too much complication or too many meetings puts dread into the process and takes away the spontaneous fun of giving just for the joy of it. And those endless, ubiquitous envelopes that appear in our mailboxes and emails make our efforts seem small and ineffective.

Several local groups have devised a way to increase the effectiveness of giving by joining together with like-minded people to impact social change and pave the way for a new frontier in philanthropy.

Giving Circle and the Giving Party are a kind of social investment club of philanthropy. The members study various nonprofits suggested by each member and decide as a group which they would like to contribute to. They pool their donations, thereby leveraging each individual’s contribution. Such cumulative, focused donation makes a greater impact.

Candidates for giving could be our own local organizations or any other worthy nonprofit. Creating partnerships with a limited number of charities creates a deeper level of involvement for a higher return on investment. It also provides a hands-on opportunity to explore and collaborate with others who share the desire to make thoughtful social investments having a greater impact.

If you would like information on how to form a Giving Circle, contact Marilyn Hartman at It’s not only satisfying and effective, it’s fun.

Ellie Kinnaird is a former state senator and mayor of Carrboro. She lives in Chapel Hill.