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Friday, November 9, 2012

Women pool their resources to maximize charitable giving

Traci Richards (center) explains the concept of 100 Women Who Care at the group's first meeting.
A newly formed giving circle, 100 Women Who Care, hopes to maximize charitable donations to support worthy organizations that make a difference in Northern Virginia.

The group is based on the idea that if 100 women join forces and  each one donates $100 a quarter, that could provide $10,000 to help a local organization build or sustain a valuable program. That sort of strategic giving would be more meaningful than if people donate sporadically to causes that might not put their money to the best use.

Members of 100 Women Who Care research charities and come together four times a year for a brief meeting to decide which ones to support. About 15 women came to the group’s first meeting at the George Mason Regional Library in Annandale Nov. 1.
The goal is to ultimately draw 100 participants, said Traci Richards, the founder of 100 Women Who Care and vice president at Innovative Anesthesia. Richards is the former executive director of the Mid-Atlantic affiliate of Y-ME, a nonprofit organization no longer in business that supported women and their families affected by breast cancer. Several of the women at the first meeting had also been involved with Y-ME.

Richards got the idea for 100 Women Who Care from Regina Brett, an author and columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. There are similar groups around the country, but they aren’t connected with one another.

This is how it works: Members pledge to contribute $400 a year. They bring to each quarterly meeting a proposal for a charity they want the group to fund. The charity has to be nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and must serve local residents.

 “We want our money to stay here in Northern Virginia,” said Nancy Plemens Mayes, a communications consultant in Springfield, who helped organize the group.

The nominations are put in basket and three are drawn randomly. The members whose charities are selected area given five minutes to describe the organization and explain why it should be selected. Other members can ask questions, then the group votes on which one to support.

Members of 100 Women Who Care voted to send their first donation to Loudoun Therapeutic Riding, an organization based at the Morven Park International Equestrian Center in Leesburg that teaches horse-riding to children and adults with disabilities, such as autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries, Down’s syndrome, and emotional disorders. Using horses in therapy helps improve posture, balance, mobility, and self confidence.

The other charities considered at the first meeting were Volunteer Fairfax, an organization that matches the skills and interests of individual and corporate donors with local projects, and Hope Connections, an organization that offers emotional support and other services to cancer victims and their families. Those organizations can be brought up again at future meetings.

Among the women at the group’s first meeting were a public relations consultant, financial adviser, yoga instructor, rabbi's assistant, educator, and a retiree who does a lot of volunteering. They came from Prince William, Loudoun, and Arlington, as well as Fairfax County. Richards selected Annandale for the first meeting because of its central location.

If you would like to join, there’s a registration form on the group’s website.

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