A group of Halifax women has inspired hundreds of men to make a $100 donation that has changed lives overnight.
It started with a cheeky comment. Colette Robicheau issued a dare to her friends.
"She said that she thought it would be difficult for us to get even five men who care," recalls Alex Handyside. "Bill and I looked at each other and realized we found two so we thought, 'Let's see if we can find a few more.'"
The concept is simple. Take 100 people with $100 each and put them in a room. Three charities explain why they need a financial boost, and the 100 people vote on one that will receive all of the money on the spot.
In Halifax, the 100 movement has been successful for both the women and the men — so much they may need to change their names. Each group has well over 200 members, meaning Halifax charities are taking home massive cheques in one night.
"It's really quite humbling to think that, yeah, when we were bouncing this around over coffee less than a year ago, now we can get 250 men in a room all supporting our goal and ideal," said Handyside.
"It's a great feeling to be able to see all of those cheques being collected, it's really quite humbling."
Some of the recipients include:
- The Friends of Gilda Nova Scotia — $16,500.
- Bryony House — $12,000.
- Children's Wish Foundation — $27,707.
- Nova Scotia SPCA — $28,650.
Both groups meet every three months. The men will select their fourth charitable recipient at a meeting Wednesday night.
Part of the fun of it all is the mystery. Members can nominate non-profit and charitable organizations which are randomly selected, so no one knows which three will be asking for help until they arrive.
"We don't want to give the men any lead into that, or else they're going to go in with preconceived ideas," explained Handyside. "When a charity walks away with $25,000, they can run a program with that. It's really impactful."
Member Steve Foran proudly calls himself a man who gives a damn. He says the members are like surgeons — they hear problems in the community and have the ability to fix them instantly.
"This idea of being a superhero, just an every day superhero, how you can come together with $100 and a bunch of other like-minded individuals that care about their community that give a damn about their community and solve major problems and make a very big impact, that is very empowering," said Foran.
"It just feels so good. But to explain it, it's really hard. You got to be at one of these meetings."
Charities are randomly selected from nominations by the members. They must be based in Halifax and have to be registered so they can issue tax receipts. They also must be established, so more than a year old. They're given one week's notice about the voting night and they're given five minutes and a microphone to make their case.
Foran said the idea is taking off like wildfire.
"We've had requests from across Canada, from the United States, 'How can we get a program started in our community?'" he said,
Part of the appeal, said Handyside, is the efficiency. He said people are busy and they don't want to have to attend numerous charity fundraisers to make a small donation.
"One hundred per cent of what we raise goes directly to the charity. There's no overhead and there's no administration," he said. "It's all over in 60 minutes. You do that four times a year and you make a huge impact."
Sometimes, members chip in even more to help out. At the last meeting for the men, the North End Community Health Centre received $25,225 to repair its building.
Setting the stage
The women's group, 100 Women Who Care, was started by Robicheau and Jennifer Salib-Huber. They heard of the model in other North American cities and thought it would be a good fit for Halifax. Theirs was the first chapter in Atlantic Canada.
Since then, several East Coast communities have jumped on the bandwagon.
Robicheau said people love it because they feel empowered.
"When you look out in the audience and see the faces of people listening to what's really going on in our community, the good deeds that these groups are doing, it's quite amazing to see those faces," she said,
Voting night can be an emotional roller coaster, Robicheau said, as the members have just one hour to make a decision about where their money will go.
As for the men who accepted her challenge, Robicheau said she's proud of all they've accomplished.
"We haven't been that competitive, we're very observant of each other, but I think in the future we might have to nudge each other more," she said.