16 Mar MIAMI WOMEN’S GIVING CIRCLE RAISES BIG DOLLARS FOR LOCAL CAUSES
100+ Women Who Care Miami-Dade meets once a quarter to learn about local causes and support them with their collective funds. Since starting in 2014, the chapter has donated more than $100,000 to local nonprofits. Jamie Levenshon, co-founder and director of the chapter, shares why she started the giving circle and the impact they hope to make.
As a second-generation Miamian, born in Coconut Grove to a family of “givers,” I learned the importance of helping a community thrive. My grandmother, Areta Kaufman, who moved here from Ohio at a young age, was well-known in Miami social circles for serving on the boards of numerous organizations, such as Miami City Ballet and Project HOPE, and owning “Gallery Areta” on Miami Beach. She inspired me to not only get involved in local organizations, but also act as a driving force of change in the community at large. Starting the 100+ Women Who Care, Miami-Dade Chapter (100WWC) was my way of doing that.
In essence, 100WWC is a giving circle. We’re a group of like-minded women – donors, nonprofit leaders, young professionals and volunteers – who come together to raise awareness and funds for causes that matter to us. Women who join care about their community and want to give back, but may not have the means to make a big commitment otherwise. It also serves as an easy and effective way for smaller charities to bring in significant funding without high administrative costs.
I first heard about 100WWC South Florida through a mentor of mine in the real estate field. That’s how I met Melody Spano, who started the group. She dreamed of seeing subchapters open across the region. She had some key Miami women who had an interest and brought us together to brainstorm. In 2015, Kim Rodstein, Debra Kolsky, Terri Echarte, Karen Maerovitz India Turkell and I made Melody’s dream a reality. Today, there are subchapters in Broward, South Palm Beach, North Palm Beach and Jupiter–Tequesta. A men’s group also recently launched.
How the giving circle works
The concept is simple: 100 women gather for a one-hour meeting and, by meeting’s end, we each write a $100 check to donate to a local nonprofit. The chapter meets four times a year and members can nominate a nonprofit of their choice. At each meeting, we hear from three groups about what they do and what they need. After they present, the members vote. Whichever nonprofit gets the most votes, receives the grant. The Schulze Foundation contributes matching funds and matches 50 percent of what we raise up to $5,000. We also opened a Fund at The Miami Foundation so that they could manage the finances and transactional aspects. That way, our members can focus on giving and the nonprofits can hone in on doing their work.
Growing local impact
To date, the Miami-Dade chapter has donated more than $100,000 in grants to 12 local causes: Autism and Music, Inc., Fore Life, Inc., The Friendship Circle Miami, The Motivational Edge, Casa Valentina, Ladies Empowerment and Action Program (LEAP), Project Mother Path, Multi-Ethnic Youth Group Association, ICU Baby, South Florida Symphony Orchestra, Transition, Inc., and R Stars Project.
As a donor, it’s important that I know where my dollars go. With the 100WWC model, we know exactly what we’re funding and we invite the organizations to come back and talk to us about what they’ve done with their grants. LEAP, a prison education program that teaches practical employment, entrepreneurship and essential life skills to female inmates, asked me to give a keynote at one of their graduations. I wanted to not only speak but also learn firsthand from the women inside the prison how LEAP had helped them. I left the prison that day feeling inspired and full of hope for the future of these women and the opportunity LEAP gave them. This is why 100WWC then invited one of their graduates, Rebecca “Cafe” Brown, to join our group and cover her membership with one condition: Rebecca had to pay it forward by submitting an organization to present at one of our meetings, which resulted in Transition, Inc. receiving a grant.
Giving comes full circle
We are always looking for new members. The more members we have, the larger we can eventually make our gifts to the charities we support. The meetings are fun: we network, catch up and give back. You can be as involved as you want to be with no pressure. The next meeting is on May 1, 2018 at CIC Miami, and I invite anyone who’s interested to join us. Community building is an exchange of gifts. If you ask people what their skill is and share yours with them, we can rely on each other more, take care of each other and build out from there. Ask yourself, “What’s your gift and how will you share it with someone else?”
Jamie Levenshon is a co-founder of the 100+ Women Who Care Miami-Dade Chapter.
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