Imagine raising $10,000 for a worthy cause in one hour, with no committee meetings, no solicitations, no auctions, no speeches, and no boring chicken dinners. Too good to be true? Not at all.
By Jennifer Proe
The back room at Valenti’s restaurant in Beachwood is buzzing with the sounds of women greeting one another over light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. At precisely 6:30 pm, the room comes to attention as the proceedings begin. By 7:30 pm, one local non-profit organization will receive a $10,000 donation, on the spot.
Will it go to the summer youth program that promotes cultural tolerance through peace education? To the organization that provides a safe haven to homeless pregnant women? Or to the residential home providing dignified end-of-life care for the indigent? Within the next hour, the women in this room will decide.
This is the vision that sisters Beth Wain Brandon, Amy Wain Garnitz, and Cathy Wain Stamler embraced when they decided to launch their own chapter of 100 Women Who Care, CLE-Eastside, along with high school pal Julie Raskind. All four grew up in Shaker and are alums of Shaker Heights High School. Karen Moriarty — also a Shaker grad — and Martha Mahoney were also among the founders.
The group is modeled upon the concept of a giving circle created in Jackson, Michigan in 2006 by the town’s former mayor, Karen Dunigan (now deceased). Her concept was simple: Rather than spreading their contributions thinly across the wide landscape of worthy causes, ask 100 women to commit $100 each to one organization at a time, thus magnifying the impact of their giving.
” . . . to a smaller organization, a gift of $10,000 can be life changing.”
“I belonged to a similar group in Bainbridge,” says Garnitz, who owns a custom invitation and stationery business in Shaker. She thought, “I bet we could find 100 women in the Heights area who would be willing to do this.”
The initial founders called on friends, family, and business associates to help spread the word. Within a few months, they had recruited 100 people to join. They held their first meeting in 2013 at Laurel School.
Since that time, the group has grown to more than 140 members (there is no limit), and raised nearly $100,000 for nine area non-profit organizations serving a wide variety of needs. (See details below.)
The group, which holds four meetings per year, represents a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and professions. About 40 percent hail from Shaker Heights, with the balance from neighboring communities. What they all have in common, in addition to their generous spirit, is that they are women.
Says Brandon, “There is something nice about empowering women in philanthropy. By giving women that voice, we might decide to give in a different way than men might. It’s also a good option for full-time working women who may not be able to give of their time as a volunteer.”
At each meeting, attendees are invited to put the name of an organization that is near and dear to their hearts into a basket. hree are selected at random for consideration. Members then have five minutes to present the case for why their organization deserves funding, followed by a five-minute question and answer period. The sessions are strictly timed.
“This is speed philanthropy,” says Stamler, who used her skills as a graphics designer to create a logo, website, and business cards for the group. “The one rule we have is that you must attend the meeting in order to be able to vote, and employees of the organization cannot make the presentations. We want to keep the playing field as level as possible.”
“.. .100 women… commit $100 each to one organization at a time, thus magnifying the impact of their giving.”
After the three presentations, the members in attendance vote by paper ballot for the need they believe is worthiest of funding. The votes are quickly tallied and the members each write a $100 check to the selected organization. Meeting dismissed.
Members who are not able to attend the meeting are informed by e-mail of the selected organization and are instructed where to send their check. Says Garnitz, “100 percent of the funds go to the organization. There is no treasurer, no president or vice president. We just grab the white boards and markers and go.”
At the start of each meeting, representatives of the previously selected organization are invited to update the group’s members on how their funds were used and to thank them for their donation.
Brandon, who has served on the boards of several area non-profits, knows that “to a smaller organization, a gift of $10,000 can be life changing.”
Benjamin Rose was able to use our funding to provide a vehicle to deliver meals to the elderly. There is no way they could have done that without our contribution.” They were so grateful, they put the group’s logo on their van.
More than Facts and Figures
Koyen Parikh Shah, who directs the Center for Leadership and Well-Being at Hathaway Brown School, was eager to join the group. “Part of the appeal is that the format is nimble and lean – no overhead, no infrastructure,” she says. She adds, “I am always affected by the presentations, and not just for the charities that win the funding.”
In fact, says Brandon, “Sometimes the presentations are so compelling that members choose to write an additional check for a cause that was not selected by the group.”
In addition to learning about the many organizations that serve our community, members also appreciate developing their own skills in vetting and persuading others.
Robin Robinson Johnson, executive director of Cleveland’s Singing Angels and a Shaker classmate of Stamler’s, joined last year. “What I have learned is that it’s not just about the facts and figures. You need to be able to share the story,” she says. “The secret to success is demonstrating the personal impact. It’s always so hard to choose – I want to give to all of them, but I have a budget.”
Says Shah, “I’ve learned to be smarter about philanthropy from watching how other women vet an organization, hearing the questions they ask, finding out who will be savvy with the money we donate.”
Shaker residents Cathy Mitro and Jennifer Sullivan were prepared for this scrutiny when they were selected to present their charity of choice, Thea Bowman Center, which provides adult education, youth programs, and support services to residents of Cleveland’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
Says Sullivan, “This group is thorough; you have to know what you’re talking about. When hea Bowman Center was selected, it was thrilling, and they were so joyous. his is such a feel-good group. And it’s always nice to network with such sharp women.”
At tonight’s meeting, the organization that secures the group’s donation is Malachi House, which provides hospice care to the homeless. Says one member, “I didn’t get my frst choice tonight, but that’s okay with me. Majority rules, and the women have spoken. I just wish I could give to them all.”
The group’s robust membership is a testament to the next generation’s commitment to caring for our community. “Cleveland has a long history of philanthropy, but that does not automatically guarantee a philanthropic future,” says Shah. “When you join forces with a group of 100 women, it deepens your awareness and your impact.”
To learn more about the group’s contributions, or to join, visit their website at 100womencle-eastside.com.
Originally published in Shaker Life, Winter 2016.
Caring for Our Community
Since 2013, the members of 100 Women Who Care, CLE-Eastside, have donated a combined $100,000 to nine area non-profits serving a wide variety of needs, including:
WELCOME HOUSE The funding supported recreation for residents of homes for developmentally disabled adults in the Cleveland area. Activities include travel, bowling, and sporting events.
THEA BOWMAN CENTER The funding provided general support to The Thea Bowman Center, which is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in the Mt. Pleasant community of Cleveland through adult education, food support, youth programs, and resource services.
ROSE CENTERS The funding paid for repurposing a van for delivering hot meals to the frail elderly in Cleveland. The Rose Centers work to advance health, independence, and dignity for older adults.
ART PALACE Operating funds were needed for the Buckeye neighborhood drop-in art center. Art Palace is an arts incubator to discover, support, and promote community improvement projects for residents of Cleveland and East Cleveland.
TRANSITIONAL HOUSING Operating funds were needed for temporary shelter housing (up to 24 months) for women with diagnosed drug and alcohol problems. Services include assessment for skill development, permanent housing, and self-sufficiency.
HEIGHTS YOUTH THEATER Funding helped move costumes and sets to a new warehouse so that the theatre could operate in a new venue. HYT promotes quality live theater that entertains audiences and educates, encourages, and inspires young artists to grow.
INMOTION Funds were needed for a center serving adults with Parkinson’s disease and other neuro-movement disorders. Services include group therapy, research library, and group exercise classes with trained instructors.
MAGNOLIA CLUBHOUSE This agency promotes vocational, educational, and recreational activities for adults with mental illness. The Clubhouse is a gathering place that serves as a hub of activity and training to connect adults with mental illness to prevent social isolation.
MALACHI HOUSE Funding was needed to provide comfortable furnishings for residents of the home, which provides end-of-life care to the homeless, without regard to gender, race, or religion.