100+ Millennials Who Care takes a collective approach to philanthropy

100+ Millennials Who Care is a new Oakland County-based organization born out of 100 Women Who Care, a philanthropic organization in which members—ideally at least 100, though it certainly can be more—commit to donating $100 each to a charity pitched and voted on by its members. It was started by a woman named Karen Dunigan in Jackson, Michigan who had the idea to call 100 friends to donate $100 each to support her efforts to raise $10,000 for baby cribs for new mothers in need. This idea launched the first chapter of the now international 100 Who Care Alliance, with chapters around the world including men, people, teens, and kids chapters. 

About five years ago, Michelle Denno joined the 100 Women Who Care Rochester group. She remembers observing at her first meeting that she was the youngest person in the group. Five years later, she still was.

“I just thought, ‘There is something wrong with this,’” she says. “A Millennial is a person born between 1981 and 2000. Our generation is getting married and having children, but some are just graduating college or still in college. We are the next largest generation after the Baby Boomers, and we are also the most socially-conscious generation—we want to give and we want to help, but at lot of people don’t know where to go to do that. We also want to make a real impact with our giving.”

So she called nine close friends of hers and told them about her concept for a spin-off organization, 100+ Millennials Who Care. They had never heard of the original 100 Women Who Care concept—which might help explain why Denno was always the youngest person in the room when her chapter had their meetings—but they absolutely loved Denno’s idea. 

If you become a member, then you commit to donating $100 and attending the quarterly meetings where members have the opportunity to nominate, and then vote on, a local charity to benefit from that meeting’s donations. Meetings are optional but attendance is encouraged so you have the opportunity to vote on the charity or nominate one yourself.

The meetings are just one hour long, and are held at the bar and restaurant inside the Emagine Theatre in Royal Oak. Denno is emphatic in stressing that meeting times are strictly adhered to—they start promptly at 7 p.m. and end promptly at 8 p.m. on Monday nights when most people wouldn’t have other social commitments.

“We’re really strict on time,” says Denno. “No one wants to be in a two-hour meeting. You’re always going to be out of there by 8:00, I promise!”

Three charity nominations are selected at random at the beginning of each meeting, and then each person whose charity nomination was selected has exactly five minutes to pitch the charity to the other members and demonstrate how it is making an impact in Michigan. After that, they have another five minutes for general member questions, which can be intense: Members want to know things like what the organization’s operating budget is and exactly how this money will be allocated.

“We want to make sure our money is really having an impact, so it is important to us to see what and where we’re giving to and how that money is being used,” Denno explains. “There’s a lot of transparency that goes on in these meetings. People are not shy to ask where their money is going.”

After the presentations and Q&A periods are done, every member votes on the charity they want to receive their gift. At its first and only meeting so far held on September 19, 100+ Millennials Who Care had 70 members who, together with sponsor UHY Advisors, raised $8,200 for a single charity in just one hour. Some people might want to support philanthropic causes but feel that their meager donations won’t have much of an impact, and that is the great thing about collective giving: Now you’re part of a group that has raised more than $8,000 for one organization, and that will really make an impact.

“It’s a completely different way to give,” says Denno.

The recipient of their first-ever gift is an organization called Fleece & Thank You, which makes fleece blankets and offers comfort to children in hospitals suffering from serious illnesses. When they give a child a blanket, they also pair it with a personal video message of support and encouragement that the children might not get to experience much otherwise—the children often can’t interact with visitors because of compromised immune systems.

Denno emphasizes that by taking just an hour out of your quarter, just four hours a year, you can be part of something that makes a huge impact. And the $100 every four months? It breaks down to just $1.09 a day.

“When people hear about the concept and how simple it is they’re ready to give,” Denno says. “They know they can trust where the money is going because we’re vetting the organizations out. You’re also not giving to the same charity every quarter. With each meeting you hear about three great charities, which is also great exposure for the charities.” 

Members of 100+ Millennials Who Care come from all over Southeastern Michigan. If you would like to find out more and to join the organization, visit their website at 100millennialswhocare.com. There is no obligation but Denno does ask that if you do join, try to commit to a minimum of one year. Their next meeting is Monday, January 21 at 7 p.m. (sharp!) at Emagine Royal Oak; if you would like to join and attend, please register in advance.

Denno says that another goal of 100+ Millennials Who Care is to create a culture of giving, specifically among Millennials who are perhaps just recently coming into a place professionally and personally where philanthropy is becoming an important focus. It also helps build a community around philanthropy, where people get to meet other people around their own age who share their same passion.

“It’s great to come together with people from your community and have a mindset to help out your neighbors in need.”