Designing Grants that Inspire

Strategic philanthropy is much more than writing checks to impactful organizations. The Utah Women’s Giving Circle (UWGC), a Giving Circle facilitated by the Community Foundation of Utah, believes they can make a significant impact by forming partnerships with organizations and inspiring these organizations to approach their work with new perspectives through themed grant cycles. Their mission is to leverage small, individual donations into a powerful tool that strengthens women in Utah and grow possibilities for Utah girls.

“Every time I see messaging from the Utah Women’s Giving Circle about their new grant cycle, it makes me think of our organization in a different way,” said Heidi Moreton, Executive Director of Girls on the Run Utah. Girls on the Run Utah uses the grant cycles to think critically about their organization. Their mission - inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident - is well-aligned with UWGC. From the outside, running and growing possibilities for girls might not seem interconnected, but Girls on the Run shows how being part of a team and pushing your physical limits leaves a lasting impact on young girls.

During a three-month program, girls are doing much more than preparing for a 5K race. They participate in personal, team, and community development activities. This starts with a foundational lesson on helping girls find their “star power”. A star power is something the girls identify as unique or special within them. This activity builds confidence by removing expectations for all girls to act or be a certain way: their star power is individual and worth celebrating. As the girls progress through the program, they turn their thinking outward, culminating in a team-led service activity.

Running also prepares these girls for their futures. According to academic research, girls who participate in organized sports gain leadership skills - regardless of their athletic ability. “These girls are coming out and doing something hard,” Heidi explained. “It’s just them and the pavement under their feet. You gain an increased awareness of yourself and your capabilities.”

Through their partnership with UWGC, Girls on the Run has continually improved their program. One grant cycle focused on implicit biases. Overcoming implicit biases that are deeply ingrained in our culture is challenging, but Heidi and her team help their coaches and teams overcome these biases by talking about inclusion and access. Girls on the Run believes running is for all girls, regardless of age, athletic ability, socioeconomic status, or any other factor, and they work to make all girls feel welcome before the program even begins through invitations to participate and by making the team a safe space for individuality. Scholarships are also provided to remove cost barriers for low-income girls. Another year, the grant cycle focused on fostering friendship and women empowering one another, and Girls on the Run strengthened that aspect of their coaches’ training.

During the 5K race at the conclusion of the Girls on the Run program, as Heidi described it, “You see the power of the moment. These young girls, who started the program hating to run and a little bit shy, cross the finish line and have so much confidence.” UWGC sees that power too: their collective giving exponentially grows the possibilities for these Utah girls.

Giving Tips:

Make your giving go farther by joining a Giving Circle or pooling donations with friends. Think of your charitable giving as an investment in that issue area for your community as well as in the organization itself. As we work together, we can achieve a greater impact in our communities. 

If you would like to support Girls on the Run Utah, you can make a donation, sign up as a volunteer coach, or volunteer as a running buddy for the 5K race. Visit their website for more information.

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