The Crisis: 43.6 million Americans currently live in poverty.

The United States is the richest country in the world. Yet with 14.3% of the U.S. population living in poverty, our nation is suffering through an enormous societal crisis. It’s a problem that’s not only measured by the intangible, personal stories of family hardship and heartache, but also by a real cost burden to society of $500 billion per year (Center for American Progress).

It’s a grim picture, but one that is slowly changing through innovations like Circles®, a high-impact strategy to end poverty in our nation one community at a time.

The Solution: Circles®, an innovative model designed to eliminate poverty.

The Circles® model is a transformational approach that partners volunteers and community leaders like you with families in need. With your help, we can:

  • Uplift thousands of families as they move themselves permanently out of poverty.
  • Empower people from every economic class to solve poverty in their community.
  • Provide families with the training, networking, and social capital essential to get out of poverty.
  • Change the systematic barriers and policies that lock people into poverty.

Early results demonstrate that for every $1 spent on the program, $2 in welfare and food stamp subsidies was returned to the state, and $4 to the community as new earned income.

Circles® is an innovative model based on a body of research suggesting that in order for families with low income to improve their situation, they must have bonding social capital within the community, bridging social capital to access the resources contained by higher income networks, and linking social capital that connects the first two with public institutions.

Operating in communities around the country, each Circle® initiative consists of a family working to get out of poverty and several middle and upper income Allies who befriend them and lend support. The family is the Circle Leader, setting direction for activities. With the help and friendship of their allies, each family sets and achieves goals unique to their own needs.

Circle Leader Training is a comprehensive curriculum in which Circle Leaders learn new tools to build up financial, emotional and social resources. Leaders also research the causes of poverty in their community. Ally training provides Allies with the community tools to address poverty and teaches hidden rules of class. Weekly Community Meetings gather Circle Leaders, Circle Allies, and other interested community members to provide support and networking opportunities. At Big View Meetings, held once per month, all the causes of poverty in the community are addressed over time, including community and system barriers.

Each Circles® initiative is developed and designed by a Guiding Coalition, composed of community leaders, families with low income, elected and appointed officials, and volunteers. The coalition works to change the mind set and policies of their community with respect to poverty. A Lead Organization is responsible for staffing, operational oversight, and for contributing resources to each Circles® initiative.

With the help of passionate and dedicated people like you, Circles® has increased the emotional and financial stability of participating families and reduced their use of welfare benefits. Most importantly, Circles® has brought the experience of poverty into the minds and hearts of new Allies and community leaders, taking us one step closer to the national commitment to end poverty!