Jewish Giving Circle Incubator: A Call for Applications

giving circlesReady to Start a Giving Circle? We Want to Help!

Are you curious about how giving circles work and how you can get one off the ground? Do you want to play a critical role in helping to develop a new global initiative that will change the face of Jewish giving? The Natan Fund has the perfect opportunity for you!

Natan is seeking individuals to participate in two cohorts of the first-ever Jewish Giving Circle Incubator. The Incubator marks the launch of a new global initiative to catalyze, connect and counsel Jewish giving circles, powered by Natan and supported by a pilot grant from the Schusterman Family Foundation.

A giving circle is a group of people who pool their charitable donations and decide together where to allocate their money. A Jewish giving circle focuses on giving to Jewish organizations and/or on giving that is explicitly inspired by Jewish values. Giving circles are a powerful way for small groups to make big change: to give together, build community with each other, experience rigorous and strategic philanthropy, and connect to the increasingly diverse and exciting universe of Jewish organizations and social entrepreneurs around the world.

Giving circles are collaborative, democratic, inspiring, thoughtful, and fun – and anyone can start one.

The Giving Circle Incubator

The Giving Circle Incubator will consist of two six-month cohorts of 10 individuals each who are seeking to start up a new Jewish giving circle. The first Incubator cohort, for North Americans only, will launch in February; the second cohort has no geographic restrictions and will launch in April. Selected participants will have access to the prototype tools, resources and supports Natan is developing as part of the broader giving circles initiative. Participants will receive close guidance from experienced giving circle coaches and the opportunity to connect with other individuals around the world who are also experimenting with collective giving throughout the Incubator and at a Jewish Giving Circles convening to be held in NYC on March 30-31.

Participants will be expected to recruit 5-15 initial members of their giving circle and hold 3 meetings of the circle. Each circle will be expected to raise its own grantmaking budget, primarily through member contributions. Incubator participants will also provide feedback to Natan throughout the Incubator process, which will help to shape the contours of the broader giving circles initiative. The full initiative will launch in Summer 2014 and will provide robust resources for starting, enhancing and sustaining Jewish giving circles.
There are no restrictions on the size, minimum donation level, or giving focus (other than the Jewish criteria outlined above) for giving circles incubated through this process. No prior experience with giving circles is necessary – just a desire to experiment with this meaningful and exciting way to give!

To apply for the Incubator, please fill out the application form. Applications are due Monday, January 27th at 12pm EST.

Please direct all inquiries about the Incubator to Aviva Stampfer, Aviva(at) or (212) 764- 8989.

About: The Natan Fund believes that educated, engaged and entrepreneurial philanthropy can transform both givers and nonprofit organizations. Since 2002, Natan has operated a giving circle of young philanthropists who support Jewish and Israeli social innovation. With the new giving circle initiative, Natan is developing the backbone infrastructure to develop, connect and strengthen Jewish giving circles around the world.

Print Friendly
Pin It
Send to Kindle


  1. Cynthia Francis Gensheimer says

    I have been studying the benevolent work of 19th century Jewish women and believe that much of our charitable work today lacks the intimacy of the bands of women who came together in the 19th century. About a year ago, I attended a local meeting of a non-sectarian group–Dining for Women (– and got to thinking how wonderful it would be if there were something similar for Jews.
    Dining for Women works on a simple principle. All around the U.S. there are small local groups of women who meet monthly for a potluck supper at the home of a member. Each group watches a very short video highlighting an international project that benefits girls and women. The headquarters group selects the projects and produces the videos. After watching the video, the women have a short discussion, pass a hat for donations, and enjoy a meal featuring the cuisine of that month’s region.

    Nationwide, Dining for Women has grown very rapidly. Because of the challenges of trying to ensure proper oversight and stewardship, it would be a major undertaking to try to launch something similar for Jewish women, but perhaps it could be done by piggybacking on the work of an organization that already functions internationally.

  2. says

    My new book, Donor Cultivation and the Donor Lifecycle Map: A New Framework for Fundraising (Wiley), focuses on giving circles as a cultivation tool. The premise is that giving circles alone, like all cultivation tools, do nothing, however, if they are used cogently to move donors along to becoming ongoing supporters of organizations, then they make work to create long term contributors. I wonder if alone – independent and not a part of any organization – they have any long-lasting impact.

  3. says

    Cynthia, I totally agree that earlier models of philanthropy can inform our present work. (I almost wrote a dissertation about it – The Dining for Women example is also a great one. Have you looked into the movement of contemporary Jewish women’s foundations in NY (, DC ( and all over the country? Those are close to what you’re describing but are a bit more intricate in terms of structure and grantmaking procedures.

    The Jewish Giving Circle initiative (yet to be named) that this Incubator is the first stage of will absolutely help to get groups like the ones you describe off the ground. Please be in touch with us about your ideas!

    Felicia Herman, Executive Director
    The Natan Fund

  4. says

    Deborah, great question, and I definitely want to read what you’ve written about giving circles.

    Most of the models of giving circles that I know about – in the Jewish community and out of it – are independent of particular institutions. Their aim is empowering philanthropists, building identity, community, donor education – rather than on fundraising for a specific institution. That is, although they might be hosted/staffed by an institution like a Federation or Community Foundation, their giving is pretty independent.

    That said, as I’ve been talking to people around the country about giving circles, I’m learning of new examples of giving circles within particular institutions. We will be highlighting all of their models (and discussing their strengths and weaknesses) when our full project launches over the summer. We’d love to have your input – feel free to reach out at any time!

    Felicia Herman, Executive Director
    The Natan Fund

  5. says

    And …Jumpstart will be bringing out a cross-cultural research report on giving circles as part of our Connected to Give series. We’re always interested in hearing about other giving circle research and being in conversation with other researchers.

  6. says

    Hi Cynthia (and thank you, Felicia),

    My name is Joy Sisisky and I am Executive Director of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York at Today, nearly two dozen Jewish womens funds operate in the U.S. and Israel. Though we operate independently, our shared focus is to create lasting, system-weide change by addressing root causes of issues andimproving the landscape for women and girls in the Jewish community. Many of the funds, like JWFNY, were created in response to both the lack of resources dedicated to issues affecting women and girls and a dearth of women leaders in top positions or with decision-making authority at our communal institutions. This year, JWFNY is celebrating our 18th anniversary. We work to promote economic, religious, social and political equality through strategic grantmaking, advocacy and education. We function like a large giving circle with operating principles but also run smaller more traditional giving circles like the ones you cited in your response. I’d be happy to tell you about and learn more about your work and hope we might have the chance to learn from each other!
    My best,
    Joy Sisisky, Executive Director
    Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York

  7. Cynthia Francis Gensheimer says

    Felicia, you did a terrific job with “From Priestess to Hostess.” The book I’m writing examines 19th century women’s benevolent work in small-town America. I will write to you privately about our shared interest.

    Joy, thank you for reaching out to me and explaining your work. I am familiar with women’s giving circles and, in fact, I chair the Nefesh Committee of Jewish Federation here in Western Massachusetts. The Nefesh Fund was established in the mid 1990s as a giving circle to benefit Jewish women and girls. I think I didn’t do a good job explaining myself in my earlier post. I love the Dining for Women model, because it creates intimate circles of women who strengthen their relationships to one another while capitalizing on the expertise of a larger organization that exposes them to appealing, worthwhile international projects. I myself am not in a position to get something like that started. Rather, I am putting out the idea and hoping that it will appeal to someone in a position to adapt the concept for Jewish women and/or men. Through my research and my own experience visiting Camp Szarvas in Hungary and other international projects, I am convinced of the power of the Dining for Women model of bringing to life the important work being done in far-flung places most of us are unlikely to be able to visit in person.

    There are many avenues to engage Jews in good work, and I applaud the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York and other established organizations. The opportunity presented by the Natan Fund is wonderful as well. I wish all of you the very best!