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M.I.A.M.I. Women’s Giving Circle provides funding for women’s initiatives

In 2017, Elizabeth “Like” Lokon was expanding her program Opening Minds through Art (OMA) — an intergenerational art program for people living with dementia — across Ohio and needed a way to stay up-to-date on the quality of her program. She applied for a M.I.A.M.I. Women’s Giving Circle Grant and received $7500.

The grant went toward tablets, which help her check on training sessions in the different care facilities.

For many other organizations like OMA, the Miami Initiative for Advancing, Mentoring and Investing (M.I.A.M.I.) Women’s Giving Circle has been funding projects since 2018 to encourage and support opportunities for women.

Emily Berry, assistant vice president of Individual and Annual Giving for Miami’s Alumni Association, said, “It’s an exciting opportunity to get funding that wouldn’t necessarily otherwise be available and to either improve upon existing programs or just start something new.”

Any Miami community member or organization with an idea is eligible to apply, and applications normally close in the spring semester.

“The nice thing about the Miami Giving Circle is you get faculty, students and staff all on the same level,” Lokon said. “They’re all competing for the same award, so it’s fun.”

After applications close, the Grants Committee, which consists of alumni and faculty, reviews the proposals and votes on the finalists.

The finalists then compete in the Hawk Tank, a fast-pitch event similar to the show “Shark Tank.” After finalists pitch their ideas, members of the Giving Circle vote on which projects will receive funding.

“It almost doesn’t matter if you get the funding or not,” Lokon said. “Just going through the process of applying and hopefully being coached was a great experience.”

The winning projects receive grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000.

“It’s important to our alumni and donors who want to be a part of something big, and this program really shows the power of collective giving because each donor has to donate $1,000, but then the night of Hawk Tank, we give away more than $100,000 each year,” Berry said.

Kristin Kuehn, who graduated from Miami in 1997, has been a committee member with the Giving Circle for four years.

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During her time at Miami, Kuehn was a part of the ice skating team, and through the help of her mentors, she was able to build confidence, friendship and community to make her life more successful.

As an alumna, she wants to give back and help others.

“By being a part of the Giving Circle, being able to donate my money and time, I’m able to create that same experience for different women’s initiatives that are related to Miami,” Kuehn said.

In addition to OMA, other projects and organizations funded through the Giving Circle include Miami’s women’s hockey team, Girls Who Code, Careers Involving Quantitative Skills (CIQS) Day and the Open Door Clothes Closet.

Since OMA won the grant in 2018, it has been able to purchase 30 tablets to loan to different care communities. It can use video technology to evaluate training, give individualized feedback and send it back to the care community.

OMA was paused because of the pandemic, but now it is launching a new program using the tablets purchased with the grant called ScrippsAVID, which stands for Arts-Based, Virtual, Intergenerational and Dementia friendly. It will help students and patients connect virtually to create art, music and poetry.

Applications for the Giving Circle closed on February 11, and Hawk Tank will take place on April 28.

“We’ve had a great response this year,” Berry said. “I think it’s going to be really hard for our Giving Circle members to choose because there are so many projects that would make a meaningful difference on campus and so many enthusiastic students and faculty and staff who have great ideas.”