A new women-led charitable giving initiative in Missoula will hold a kickoff party on the scenic sixth floor of the new Stockman Bank building downtown on Thursday evening.
The Missoula Community Foundation and the Women’s Foundation of Montana, both nonprofits, are teaming up and inviting women of all ages and economic backgrounds to join a new philanthropic group called the Missoula Women’s Giving Circle. A hot new national philanthropic trend, giving circles consist of a group of individuals who collectively pool their resources to support organizations of mutual interest.
“The premise is when women and girls thrive, communities prosper,” said Meredith Printz, the executive director of the Missoula Community Foundation. “Women do a whole lot of giving; they’re very generous. So we decided to team up with the Women’s Foundation of Montana. They’re based in Missoula and they do financial education for women, so it makes sense.”
The giving circle hopes to attract at least 100 women in the first year who will leverage “modest” individual donations as small as $100 each to eventually award $10,000 to an organization focused on improving the lives of women and/or children.
“The goal is to develop a common vision and have a greater impact than we have alone,” Printz explained. “Giving circles are a growing trend in philanthropy nationally, and they’ve given over a billion dollars.”
Printz said women who sign up will co-create the project, but there is already a general outline. A steering committee will conduct the initial vetting of organizations that could be funded.
“This year it’s going to be an organization that benefits women and families and children,” Printz said. “All organizations that fit that criteria can apply. We’ll narrow it down to three organizations, and we’ll have a meeting in November. Each one will give a five-minute presentation, and everyone that is a member will have a vote. We’ll have three choice organizations and the organization that gets the most votes gets the most grant funding. We’re hoping to give away $10,000 this year.”
Anyone curious can learn about the project at the official launch party from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 14 on the sixth floor of Stockman Bank at the corner of Orange and Broadway. To RSVP, contact Nikki Robb at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 406-926-2846.
Printz said she encourages as many people as possible to attend.
“There’s room for everyone,” she said. “Men are welcome to be a part of the giving circle or sponsor a woman, but women will be participating in choosing the nonprofits. We want to give women a voice in terms of grantees. But if this goes really well and there’s a great demand, we can start a men’s giving circle.”
The aim of the Women’s Giving Circle is to engage women of diverse backgrounds and varying wealth levels to build community and grow philanthropy.
Giving circles have been described as “a way to democratize philanthropy because they provide an avenue for people without substantial means to participate in significant giving,” Printz explained.
“The idea is you don’t have to have a lot of resources to make an impact,” she said. “What we’re looking for is in the neighborhood of $100, but that can be paid out over the year or monthly or quarterly. Any way that works for folks.”
Ali Solomon, a consultant for the Missoula Community Foundation, said 60 women have already RSVP’d to the event.
Bethanie Walder, a former member of the Missoula Community Foundation board, said she was researching fundraising tools for another nonprofit when she came across the giving circle idea.
"For a very small amount you can have a large impact, and that's really empowering," she said. "And we really need to think about how it not only benefits the entity receiving the funds, but also it benefits those who give by giving them a say in what the future looks like."
Cindy Waltz, the president of the Missoula Community Foundation board, said she's excited because the giving circle will allow women to collectively pool their money to have a larger impact than anyone can have individually.
"It allows any woman who participates on any level to be a philanthropist," she said. "At the Missoula Community Foundation, we work to inspire philanthropy. And I love the idea that you don't have to have tremendous wealth to be a philanthropist. Our goal is to have a continuous impact on local nonprofits throughout the year, more than we can do alone."