By Michael McAllister
For many of us, the idea that it is more blessed to give than to receive rolls around once per year, generally in December, bolstered by Christmas carols, a Hallmark movie or two, and perhaps the notion that tax season is just around the corner.
But for a growing association of Grinnellians, giving is more frequent, more collegial, more methodical, and more fun.
Since April of 2017, members of 100 + People Who Care have set down a procedure for assisting worthy community agencies and entities four times per year. The group reports steady upward growth in both membership and dollars raised. Recipients range widely from the food insecure to skateboarders, from animals at PALS to daycare providers.
“The overall enthusiasm of the members for the program has exceeded my expectations,” states Allen Ricks, one of the group’s organizers. “People genuinely seem to have fun writing their checks.” Other organizers, such as Chris and Dennis Day, concur that enthusiasm runs high at meetings and that members bringing friends to meetings has contributed to the organization’s growth.
Although the United States economy is reported to be booming, charitable giving has not kept pace. Writing for The Washington Postin February of this year, Todd Frankel cites a study by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute in which charitable gifts grew only 1.6 percent in 2018. “Donations would normally be expected to grow 3 percent to 5 percent a year, given the country’s rapid economic growth,” according to the study.
But 100 + People Who Care shows another, more promising trend. In two years, from April 2017 through April 2019, quarterly donations have risen from $6,050 to $12,500.
Grinnell’s version of the 100 People concept began in the summer of 2016 from a mix of concern and coincidence. Both Allen Ricks and Christine Day learned of organizations forming in the vicinity of Grinnell based on the 100 People concept. “We were intrigued,” Ricks reports.
Their interest led Ricks and Day to enlist the help of their spouses, Donna and Dennis respectively, and to hold an organizational meeting the following January. Media coverage was effective, and the meeting drew 49 people, leading to the first voting meeting, in April, and the first award of $6,050 to the Tiger Pack weekend food program through the schools.
The group follows specific procedures at its quarterly meetings. Potential beneficiaries have been nominated by a 100 + member who has provided an information sheet about the project. The names of the nominated projects are “dropped in a hat,” as Ricks puts it, and three are drawn.
Members hear a five-minute presentation about each project whose name has been drawn. Following that presentation, a short question-and-answer session provides members with more information. The same procedure is followed for the second nominated project, and so on.
Members then vote on the organization to which they wish to contribute, and the project with the most votes becomes the beneficiary of the meeting. Members write their $100 checks directly to the winning entity.
Another feature of the quarterly meeting is a follow-up presentation from the group receiving contributions from the previous meeting. For example, the Dental Coalition, which provides free dental care to children in need, received $12,500 at the group’s April meeting, so that organization will report at 100 + People Who Care’s next meeting on July 23.
An organization that was nominated but not selected can present at the next meeting. In fact, several of the organizations that have been awarded contributions did not receive most votes at their first presentation meeting.
Once an organization becomes a beneficiary, it cannot submit a second proposal for two years. If an organization is nominated and is unable to present because its name is not drawn for four meetings, it is automatically allowed to present at the next meeting.
Allen Ricks reports that members walk into the meeting smiling and leave the meeting smiling, and that is a situation he has not observed in other fundraising efforts over the years.
100 + People Who Care is still evolving and is open to suggestions from members. Organizers appreciate the comments received thus far. Membership now stands at 124 contributors. Organizations may also join; Imagine Grinnell and the West Side Diner are examples.
The group maintains a Facebook page and will hold its next meeting on Tuesday, July 23, at 5:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Parish Hall. An efficient meeting is guaranteed; 100 + People Who Care limits meting time to one hour and has always met that goal. Prospective members are heartily invited, and membership forms will be available at the meeting.
Christmas in July is a common retail theme, and there is no reason why it cannot be adapted for charitable purposes. After all, it is just as blessed to give in July as in December.