By Robb Hicken, Better Business Bureau
Encouragement and power from within sometimes dwindles or falters and it causes people to look beyond themselves and their immediate circle of friends and family for support.
Getting together with likeminded individuals to help and care for each other, sounds like a great idea, but that premise has to be weighed with wisdom.
BBB has had reports of support groups – wisdom circles – founding in the Snake River Region and urges individuals looking to connect in these groups to investigate the group’s true intention. Some groups, especially for women, are truly supportive in nature, while others are highly persuasive with ulterior motives and greed.
It works like this: Women are “invited” or encouraged to join the exclusive circle of wisdom. The initial premise is as unobtrusive kind of like coming to a home sales party/show – housewares items, home-use products or scented candles. Sometimes you only buy because it’s a friend and you feel the pressure to buy.
The women’s group invites others to join, but requires that a gift of up to $5,000 be made to a woman who is in a “receiver position” in the circle. This gift is done as a show of support of the circle, and as a willingness or commitment to invite others into the circle of wisdom. Longevity within the circle moves the invitee into a “receiver position” and the promised recipient of thousands of dollars.
According to a woman from a circle in another area, a recent gift helped a struggling woman pay for new brakes and tires on her car.
Those involved say they don’t recruit, but they simply invite. They say they don’t ask for a fee; they ask for a gift and expect nothing in return for this simple gift. This is the reason why they say it is perfectly legal.
Before you join a wisdom circle:
- Talk to group members. Are they satisfied? Have they experienced any problems?
- Interview founder or group moderator. Is she/he friendly and helpful? Ask about qualifications, certification and education. How did they get involved?
- Review any contract or materials. Walk away from groups that pressure you to sign on the spot. Is everything that the inviter promised in the contract? Is there a monthly fee and what’s extra? What about a gift? What’s the total cost and payment schedule, including enrollment fees and finance charges?
- Membership details. How long do you have to be a circle member? Can you go month-to-month? Is it required to attend a percentage of meetings?
- Cancellation or withdrawal policy. What are your cancellation rights if you move, have a life-changing incident, are injured, or wisdom group folds? Will the unused portion of your gift be refunded? Those details should be in the contract.
Remember, BBB has a directory of not-for-profit or non-profit organizations available for public review.