Giving Girls

Robyn Shank of the bullying prevention nonprofit PEER Kindness stands with the donation check from the first Ouray County Giving Girls meeting with giving circle organizers, Marisa Murphy on her left, and Mary Plumb and Jill Burchmore on her right. (Courtesy photo)

The new Ouray County Giving Girls nonprofit raised more than $4,000 at its first meeting at the Divide Ranch Clubhouse on June 4, as the group will be presenting a check to PEER Kindness Inc. in July. PEER Kindness (Positive, Encouraging, Empathetic, Respectful), the Montrose-based nonprofit that “works to reduce bullying and to foster a PEER stance,” was selected as the first recipient of the giving circle.

“I was in tears. It’s nothing you would ever expect. First, I experienced the great wave of kindness as they welcomed me to the event, and then, wow, to get the donation was incredible,” said Robyn Shank, PEER Kindness executive director.

Shank described the gathering as “just a lovely, vibrant, compassionate group of women” and “a new group of friends.” She plans to return to the second meeting on Sept. 3, even though her nonprofit won’t be eligible for another donation from the group for three years.

At each of the Giving Girls quarterly meetings, open to women of all ages, attendees donate $100 each, and nominate nonprofits to receive the cumulative donation from the group. Three nonprofit names are drawn at random, nonprofit representatives or nominators pitch why their nonprofit should receive the funds and how they would be used, the attendees vote for one of the organizations, and the winner receives a check.

“The concept of the Ouray County Giving Girls originated from both Montrose and Grand Junction, where a collective force of women have been making huge changes for the nonprofits in their areas for over three years,” said Mary Plumb, one of six founding members of the Ouray County group. “Those of us who’ve attended the Montrose meetings thought it was time to bring this great idea to Ouray County.”

The first meeting, attended by 42 women, was more like a happy hour than a fundraising event. The giving circle decided to keep accepting $100 donations after the meeting through the end of June and award the check then. The total raised as of Monday was $4,500.

“Our hope is that the momentum just keeps building so we can reach more people. There are over 80 nonprofits in our county,” Plumb said. “It’s just a girl’s night out, an excuse to get out. You can be in and out in an hour if you want to or stay and socialize as much as you want.”

She added the giving circle could open up to men in the future since the county’s population is less than Montrose or Grand Junction, but suggested they create their own group.

Meanwhile, Shank is considering ways for PEER Kindness to use the donation to share its services outside Montrose County.

“We are getting calls for expanding our services in Ouray County and Delta County. We have had to say we can’t expand because we don’t have the resources yet to do that. These unexpected dollars could go towards the ability for us to bring on what we call kindness ambassadors to reach into those cities and provide services,” she explained.

“This donation is so significant for two reasons. One, the amount: $4,000 is a big chunk of change for any nonprofit. Two, the ability for us to use the funds at our discretion. A lot of time, writing grants, we don’t have the flexibility to make the best decisions for our organization. With this donation, we get to make the operational decisions that will have the biggest impact for us and what we do. It’s great to be trusted to do the right work at the right time with the right dollars.”