MANKATO — When the Women’s Giving Circle started in Mankato earlier this year, its founders hoped to recruit 100 members looking to regularly donate to local programming for women and girls.
Membership in the women-run philanthropy group quickly exceeded their expectations, which means more money to donate.
The group with the Mankato Area Foundation, now at 142 members, recently exceeded $30,000 in total donations to area organizations after its third quarter of giving.
The most recent round included $4,000 each for programs at Dance Express, Mankato Youth Place and the 410 Project. Laura Stevens, who co-founded the giving circle with Melanie VanRoekel, said the donation amount is higher than they thought they’d have in the group’s first year.
“I think we thought we could do $3,000 and $2,500,” she said. “But the more people we get, the more we can give.”
The group’s initial wave of donations sent $3,000 each to S.S. Boutique, Committee Against Domestic Abuse and YWCA Mankato’s girls cycling camp. The next round bumped the figure up to $3,500 each, this time going to the REACH, Project 4 Teens and the Boys & Girls Club of Mankato.
Group members nominate programs ahead of their quarterly meetings. Five possibilities are then randomly selected before votes determine the three recipients.
Stevens said the hope is to continue outreach efforts to more women in the community, resulting in a diverse pool of programs to be potentially funded. Surveys also will be sent out at the end of the year to garner feedback on the group’s first year.
Dana Sikkila of the 410 Project said the $4,000 in funding will allow the art center to offer scholarships for young artist mentorships, cover supplies and expand group mentoring offerings to complement the one-on-one work. The mentoring program has been in place since 2016, funded by grants and the occasional $50 or $100 donation.
“This will give us an option to open our door a little bit wider to those families who couldn’t access it before,” she said.
She wasn’t sure who nominated the program within the giving circle, but said she was thankful someone was familiar with the nonprofit’s work.
“We’ve always been a space where a little goes a long way with us,” she said. “We’re an organization supported by the community and the small grants we get … The idea of getting $4,000 is totally unbelievable.”
The giving circle’s next meeting will be Dec. 4 at the Kato Ballroom.