By Jen Heller
As last Thursday’s work day came to a close, a group of women swarmed not-so-quietly into a busy white tent at the Idaho Club. In the crisp air, spirits were high with that sense of anticipation which springs from a beautiful fall evening, and from the excitement that something good was about to happen.
It was a diverse crowd – depending on which way you turned you might bump into a restaurateur, a few non-profit workers, or a squadron of medical staff. Stay-at-home moms and business owners and spa workers all strode into the tent with one purpose: to support the people who need it most in our hometown.
Bonner County is known for its plethora of non-profits, but as its newest fledgling, 101 Women offers a fresh opportunity for everyday people to change lives. Briefly put, 101 Women takes the best ideas from crowdfunding, global women’s groups, and the microloans trend and applies them to local needs.
Over the last six months, exactly a hundred and one local women joined the organization with a brief written application and a donation of $225. Their donations are split in this manner: $25 goes to the running of the 501(c), which is staffed solely by several volunteer boards; and $200 is donated directly back to the community in a biannual $10,000 grant, for a total of $20,000 donated in the course of a year.
Donations are given only to local 501(c) organizations through a stringent application process.
The grant committee directs three finalist organizations to a semi-annual gathering, during which three delegations present their needs. After the presentations, the entire group of a hundred (and one) women puts the donation decision to a democratic vote.
Simplicity is the speciality of 101 Women, which runs all operations under the tagline “Alone we can do so little, TOGETHER we can do so much.” Food and beverages are brought to the convention potluck-style by members, and a different individual or organization donates the venue each time (kudos to the Idaho Club for this fall’s grand kick-off). And, as the clock hands tick to 5:30pm on a Thursday night, two hours of celebrating true bad-assery begins.
As several people pointed out, being a grant finalist with 101 Women is already a winning situation – each group gets 20 minutes of enthusiastic, undivided attention to explain the purpose of their organization and their future needs. This fall’s presenters came from Bonner Partners in Care, a free local clinic staffed primarily by volunteers; CASA, which trains a volunteer army of court advocates for child victims of homelessness or abuse; and SASI, which offers various services to Sandpoint seniors, including free meals at the senior center and an adult daycare center.
As the session prepared to vote after three impassioned presentations, more than a few members complained about the difficulty of having to choose between three “goods.” Sandpoint as a whole won on Thursday, but in the end it was Bonners Partners in Care that walked away with 101 Women’s first $10,000 check.
If you’re interested in joining, check out 101 Women’s website for the member waiting list and application. If you’re part of a local organization that could benefit from some extra funds, prep your proposal by March 15 to be a part of next spring’s grant cycle.