The Denver Foundation's Giving Circles & Affinity Groups: Maximizing Impact

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Shared Vision + Shared Giving = More Impact

Representatives from Arts Affinity Group grantees gathered with Arts Affinity Group donors to celebrate in April 2014

People give more, give more strategically, and are more knowledgeable about nonprofit organizations and problems in their communities when they participate in giving circles.

The Denver Foundation, as a Community foundation with connections to both the funding and the nonprofit communities, is in a natural position to be a host for giving circles of all types. The Denver Foundation is proud to play a key role in several giving circles in the Denver community. In 2013, The Denver Foundation brought together a group of passionate and knowledgeable arts funders to create the Arts Affinity Group (AAG) as a collective giving platform. The purpose of the group was to bring expanded opportunities for those who partner with the Foundation to leverage their funding, learn from one another, and promote arts in our community.

In addition to the Arts Affinity Group, the Foundation is host to the Denver African American Philanthropists (DAAP), the first African American male giving circle in Colorado. DAAP has emerged as a force for giving and has also been recognized for its important role as a community leadership organization. The group was recently voted “Best Giving Circle in the United States” by Black Celebrity Giving and profiled in JET magazine.

Both formal giving circles and affinity groups, as well as the more informal groups that collectively hold funds at the Foundation but manage their own process outside of the Foundation, lead to greater engagement and connection among the donors and the causes they care about. This increased connection translates into greater giving.

In February, AAG voted to approve their first round of grants, providing support to six leading arts learning organizations based on criteria that focused on innovation, technology, and access for
disadvantaged populations. The groups approved for funding by the AAG this year are:

  • Buntport Theater for a civil rights oriented theatrical and digital storytelling program in conjunction with East High School;
  • Youth on Record, formerly, for their work providing in-school and out-of-school training and classes for high-risk youth in the area of technical music development; and
  • Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (DAVA), for a summer program focused on “artbots” reengaging youth in the creation of technology-oriented arts programming.

Smaller grants were also awarded to Oh Heck Yeah, El Sistema, and Redline.

While the impact of the specific grants awarded by the AAG this year may not be known for some time, the enthusiasm and engagement are notable accomplishments of the collective learning / giving model. Beyond that, national models have shown that deeper and more lasting impacts result from this type of group philanthropic practice. According to the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers in a 2009 report entitled “The Impact of Giving Together,” people “give more, give more strategically, and are more knowledgeable about nonprofit organizations and problems in their communities when they participate in giving circles.”

The success of the Arts Affinity Group has inspired the Foundation to expand its offerings with the launch of an environment-focused affinity group.

For more information on the Arts Affinity Group or the environment focused affinity group, contact Kelly Purdy, kpurdy(at) For more information on Denver African Americans in Philanthropy, contact LaDawn Sullivan, lsullivan(at)

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Angelle Fouther
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