Yesterday I had the privilege of joining 100+ like-minded women for the first-ever meeting of the collective philanthropy group, Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma’am! (I’m not a fan of the name and apparently several others object to it as well – the organizers are considering a name change).
The group requires a commitment to pledge $100 per quarter to an unknown cause. At the start of each quarterly meeting, every woman is given a ticket to write their name and a selected non-profit. After 30 minutes of mingling, 4 names are drawn from the hat and those women are given 5 minutes to pitch their chosen cause to the rest of the group. After the final presentation, the group is asked to vote for a single non-profit and the winning organization receives the collective donations of the 100+ women in attendance (yes, that’s $10,000+!)
After just 2 weeks of promoting the group, the organizers had exceeded their goal of 100 members. The organizers made the decision to admit all applicants including those like me who were on the waitlist with a total of over 120 women participating in the first round.
For this first meeting, 4 causes were nominated for the vote:
The Trevor Project: The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.
New Beginnings: New Beginnings empowers survivors and mobilizes community awareness and action to end domestic violence. The organization provides services to those whose lives have been affected by domestic violence – physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Seattle Community Law Center: The SCLC mission is to provide accessible legal advocacy to people living with physical and mental disabilities so that they may obtain the resources necessary to overcome barriers to financial and medical stability.
PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support): Enable parents of infants and young children to build communities that empower them to meet the challenges of parenting through mutual support and sharing of information.
The group voted to contribute their collective funds to New Beginnings.
Why It Works
At the meeting I heard a lot of chatter about the group concept. Here are the 4 key benefits that helped bring these women together:
Minimal Time Investment: The event started at 7PM and concluded at 8PM. One hour once a quarter is an easy commitment for most people, even those with the busiest of schedules. For those members who couldn’t make it to the first meeting, they were allowed to appoint a proxy vote and were still required to make the donation.
Accessible Money Investment: For a concept like this to work, the donation amount needs to be large enough to make an impact but small enough to encourage participation. $400 over a year may seem like a lot but it’s a lower bar than most philanthropic groups. I’ve researched a few other philanthropy groups in the Seattle area and many require minimum donations in excess of $5,000/year.
Networking Opportunity: I made sure to arrive early and so did another 25 women in the group. We had the opportunity to discuss how we learned about the group, the novelty of the concept, our respective causes and then general networking. I watched two realtors make a connection, discuss a home listing and potential buyer and exchange numbers to follow up later. I personally made a connection with someone who is passionate about many causes – she reached out after the meeting so that we can connect on some volunteering opportunities.
Amplified Impact: With over 100 women attending (the list continues to grow) and $100 donation each, the impact is more than $10,000. I am fortunate enough to work for a company with an amazing matching benefit which turned my $100 contribution into $200, another amplification of my impact.
Find a Group Near You
Every woman I talked to at the meeting was new to the concept of collective philanthropy but this certainly isn’t the first group with the idea. The founder of WBTM admitted she first heard about it from a friend in another city. After a little research I discovered 100 Who Care, a national organizations of many local chapters of both women and men who donate collectively. Check it out and consider amplifying your impact – if there isn’t one available in your area, consider starting it up! The more collective philanthropy groups we build, the greater chance we all have of improving the lives of others.