Giving Tuesday: Philanthropy Starting Now

Kiran Sridhar

Kiran Sridhar is a junior at Stanford studying economics. His nonprofit, Waste No Food, that connects businesses with excesses food to organizations who work with people in need.

Today is Giving Tuesday — an international day of giving when everyone is encouraged to support nonprofits and community organizations. Over the last few years, #GivingTuesday has gained significant traction; last year, people and organizations donated $168 million to nonprofits and organizations doing social impact work. Still, I think there is far more potential for growth — particularly among the student body at Stanford, which is globally engaged but often seeks to find more ways to make a tangible impact. I think that giving circles — groups in which friends and family donate money together — are the perfect way for students to begin donating to causes and issue areas important to them.

There is an undeniable interest among students at Stanford and young people generally about globally important issues. On a macro scale, global advertising agency Havas found that 74 percent of individuals aged 18–25 believe the world will be more dangerous in 20 years and 79 percent think it will be more polluted. As a result, 92 percent of millennials believe it is essential to propagate serious change.

Young people also want to be a part of this change: a UCLA study in 2015 found that American college students today are more committed to political engagement than any previous cohort of college students since the study began 50 years ago. Nearly 40 percent of freshmen surveyed indicated they wanted to be community leaders. That passion and energy is evident at Stanford, where students organize rallies and lead clubs and groups dedicated to social impact.

Despite this widespread recognition for the need for social change and the willingness of many to be part of it, it can often be hard to figure out how best to effect change — especially when you’re starting out. Numerous social media campaigns — such as Kony 2012 — have successfully drawn outrage but have not offered a clear avenue for individuals to make an impact. And while Stanford’s campus is flooded with awareness campaigns and volunteer efforts for issues like poverty and hunger, these issues can feel too big and intractable for many students to know where to start.

I think philanthropy can be an effective way for students to make a difference. Giving circles are particularly powerful for their potential to democratize giving: most circles have very low required donation amounts. Collected and granted together, small donations make a huge difference. And through the process of collaborative giving, members are able to learn more about organizations doing work they care about — empowering them to better understanding these issue areas as they move forward with social impact involvement. Giving circles allow people to begin a giving journey, develop a philanthropic strategy and position themselves as effective changemakers down the line.

Further, as Stanford political scientist Rob Reich has argued, the main social utility of philanthropists is that they can invest in innovative ideas and projects that companies and governments — because of their stakeholder constraints and risk aversion — are unwilling to fund. Effective giving circles can, with small donations, provide vital support to disruptive nonprofits and catalyze great change.

Perhaps importantly, the philosophy of giving circles can be particularly powerful in today’s era of tense partisanship: they offer people from disparate backgrounds an opportunity to get to know each other and come to a consensus via civil discourse.

Happy Giving Tuesday! We hope that you take the opportunity to engage in giving to your community, exploring giving circles and help the Giving Circles Fund disperse a $500 grant to a nonprofit in celebration.


Want to join or start a giving circle and have questions? Email

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