The Pinnacle Bank Arena and other Railyard developments are physical indicators that the city of Lincoln is moving forward. We now have a large venue to attract popular artists, an array of restaurants to meet everyone’s needs and a fresh, unique space to house it all. Lincoln, ya look good. But it isn’t just Lincoln’s architecture and commerce that are progressing—it’s an entire mindset.
Lincolnites are thinking less about how they can help themselves and more about how they can help their community. One way this community-focused mindset is manifesting itself is in the form of “giving circles.” A giving circle is a group of people, often with a common age, theme or cause, that pools its resources together and decides how to make the biggest impact in the community.
Giving circles are unique in that they aren’t technically formal organizations. They don’t require Articles of Incorporation, or even filing with the IRS. All you need is a group of people willing to sacrifice a little time and a little money to make a big difference. And, believe it or not, there are already a few giving circles gaining traction right here in Lincoln.
One such giving circle picking up steam is NextGen—a branch of the Lincoln Community Foundation that brings together young professionals ages 21 to 40. Annual membership comes in the form of a $300 charitable donation, 100 percent of which goes to a variety of nonprofits who apply for NextGen’s grants. Every few months, NextGen holds social events where members network and discuss nonprofit grant applications. Last year, NextGen donated $8,000 to three local nonprofits. Young people doin’ big things.
Another couple of giving circles that have emerged in Lincoln are the 100s of Men Who Care and 100s of Women Who Care. The 100 Who Care Alliance is an international organization with hundreds of chapters across the globe. Recently, Lincoln got in on the action. The men’s group, which started in 2014, requires just $100 and 90 minutes of time every three months. At their quarterly events, 100s of Lincoln Men Who Care socialize over food and drinks provided by sponsors, then select a recipient of the night’s grand donation: a lump sum of the attendees’ $100 contributions. Each attendee is allowed to nominate a nonprofit to be considered for the donation, and, after nominations are complete, members vote on which organizations will be included in the random drawing at the end of the night. During its inaugural event, the group raised over $18,000 in one night. Three months later, they raised $22,000.
“Not only are you having fellowship with great people, but you’re learning about the best organizations in Lincoln. I’m donating to nonprofits that I wouldn’t hear about if it weren’t for these events, and that’s very important.”
About a year after the founding of 100s of Lincoln Men, 100s of Lincoln Women Who Care was formed. The groups have minor differences in membership and operation, but the overall premise is the same. At quarterly events, each woman in attendance is asked to donate $100, and, at the end of the night, one nonprofit is chosen to receive the lump sum of contributions. At its inaugural event, 100s of Women raised $20,000 for CASA—a Lancaster County-based nonprofit helping abused and neglected children find permanent homes. Since then, 100s of Women has raised nearly $70,000 for other Lincoln-based nonprofits.
What’s so unique and effective about these giving circles is that they don’t require major time commitments, which is an obstacle for many full-time workers. In just 90 minutes, once every few months, tens of thousands of dollars are raised for Lincoln nonprofits. According to members of these giving circles, they’re a pretty good time too.
“The social aspect is so fun,” says Bill Mueller, one of the founding members of 100s of Lincoln Men. “There are food and drink, and you’re surrounded by really, really good guys.”
But what Bill thinks is even more important is the exposure that nonprofits receive.
“Not only are you having fellowship with great people, but you’re learning about the best organizations in Lincoln,” he said. “I’m donating to nonprofits that I wouldn’t hear about if it weren’t for these events, and that’s very important.”
Challenging the status quo is important in any industry, and the nonprofit sector is certainly no exception. Giving circles like NextGen and 100s of Lincoln Men and Women Who Care are changing the conventions of fundraising, and that’s incredibly exciting. Sometimes in order to increase the number of players, you have to change the game. That’s exactly what giving circles are doing in Lincoln: redefining the game of fundraising so that everyone has a chance to play.
If you’re interested in being a part of these giving circles—as a member or as a sponsor—check out their websites or shoot them an email. They’d be happy to hear from you.