Giving Circles: Philanthropy, voluntary associations and democracy

Book List
Publishing information: 
Angela M. Eikenberry Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2009. 172pp. Paperback. ISBN 978-0-253-22085-1. £16.99

This book is positioned as a riposte to Robert Putnam’s famous assertion that we are now ‘Bowling Alone’ due to the collapse of community. Eikenberry believes that giving circles are one example of a new form of citizen participation which demonstrates that it may be the forms rather than the quantities of engagement that have changed in recent years. Giving circles involve pooling donations and making collective decisions about how to give the pooled funds away. Data on the size, scope and impact of the giving circle movement are provided. The wider scope of this book is a result of Eikenberry’s belief that giving circles are more than just a new method for organising the transfer of funds from private individuals to good causes. 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.