Giving Circles

Giving Circles

Philanthropy, Voluntary Association, and Democracy
Angela M. Eikenberry
Distribution: World
Publication date: 6/5/2009
ISBN: 978-0-253-00334-8
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Winner, Grenzebach Award
In the contemporary United States, third parties are being relied upon to deliver social services that were once chiefly the responsibility of government. Among the new philanthropic associations that have arisen in this environment are voluntary groups known as giving circles. Their purpose is to bring people together to pool resources and then collectively decide how to distribute them. Giving circles have been seen as the most democratic of philanthropic mechanisms, working to meet social needs and solve community problems, while enhancing the civic education and participation of their members. Angela M. Eikenberry examines this new phenomenon and considers what role voluntary associations and philanthropy can or should play in a democratic society.

Author Bio

Angela M. Eikenberry is Assistant Professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. She has worked as a development consultant and is a member of a giving circle.


"This is an ambitious and readable account of the appropriate role for voluntary action in modern societies, and poses an important argument that as philanthropy is primarily designed to meet the needs of donors rather than recipients, there is an essential ongoing role for government in meeting basic social welfare needs." —Beth Breeze, Publications Editor, Philanthropy UK Nwsltr , Issue 38, Sept. 2009

"Giving circles are inherently interesting voluntary associations and the description of how they operate makes fascinating reading." —Thomasina Jo Borkman, George Mason University

"A very important contribution . . . it situates questions about philanthropy and voluntary association within the framework of recent vast changes in government responsibilities, as well as significant increases in income disparities in the United States. . . . A truly critical and clear-sighted analysis of the difficulty facing the philanthropic and voluntary sectors in replacing the role of government." —Camilla Stivers, Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University

"In sum, this book uses original data and presents a novel approach to group politics that should be explored further by scholars from various disciplines. ...Recommended. General readers, upper-division undergraduate students, and above." —
Choice , March 2010

"By illuminating small philanthropic organizations and participatory groups,
Giving Circles makes a valuable contribution toward a more comprehensive understanding of the voluntary sector." —Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly , 39(5)

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Table of Contents

Introduction. Giving Circles and Democratic Governance
1. Democracy, Voluntary Association, and Philanthropy
2. The Modernization and Marketization of Voluntarism
3. Societal Changes and the New Shape of Voluntarism
Part II. Giving Circles
4. The Giving Circle Landscape
5. The Democratic Effects of Giving Circles
6. The Limits of Voluntarism in Governing Beyond the State
Appendix. Research Methodology