Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Hans Peter Schmitz, PhD, Chair; Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Member; Julia L. Carboni, PhD, Member


philanthropy, giving circles, Latino philanthropy, LatCrit, emancipatory research, community philanthropy, filantropia, filantropia latina


This dissertation shows how Latino giving circle members understand their philanthropy and how participation affects their well-being, civic engagement, and philanthropic activities by focusing on giving circles’ composition, members’ goals, and perceived benefits. I used an emancipatory research paradigm with Latino-focused critical race theory, LatCrit, to study the Latino Giving Circle Network (LGCN). A survey was used for data collection, and research platicas were employed in the survey’s analysis; both were selected and designed centering Latinos to overcome challenges in researching Latinos.

Demographic findings reveal a range of Latino experiences. Sixty-six percent reported Mexican ancestry, compared to 83% of California Latinos, showing diversity in Latino ancestry. Thirty-four percent were foreign-born and 41% were first-generation, conveying transnational roots that challenge notions that philanthropy comes from assimilation. Seventy-three percent reported earning more than California’s median income, which was likely related to LGCN’s overrepresentation of those 30–59 years of age (82% for LGCN versus 41% for California), employment rate (81% for LGCN versus 47% for California), marriage rate (65% LGCN versus 47% for California), and educational attainment (42% bachelors and 38% masters for LGCN versus 35% bachelors for California). These numbers show LGCN members come from working, middle class families and are active in their communities.

The study also examined variables that may contribute to Latinos’ motivations for joining and staying in giving circles. Latinos enter and stay engaged in philanthropy to (a) make changes in their communities, (b) pool resources to increase their impact, and (c) be part of a movement. Ancestry did not relate to different motivations for joining or staying, although members’ immigrant generation showed similarities in joining and differences in staying. Both variables showed similarities that elevate Pan-American values and expressions of philanthropy, with more recent immigrants sharing how giving circles aligned with giving in their or their parents’ countries of origin.

In considering benefits to members and their communities, findings showed how giving circles support members’ capacity to (a) affect social change, (b) build community, and (c) inspire impactful philanthropy. These benefits contribute to the understanding of giving circles’ effect on civic engagement levels and add to their influence on wellness, community building, and philanthropic strategies. Findings indicated the impact of giving circles needs to be understood at both the individual and community levels.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies