Power of 100 Southwest Gives Back to Local Charities

One influential group of women makes a difference one charity at a time.
Irene Kelly, Stacy Newgaard, Jan Eian, Carolyn Vinup, Pei Ling Jamison, Katie Kearney-Bidwell and Janene Phillips of Power of 100 Southwest.

When communities come together, great things can happen. That’s what eight women from the southwest metro believed in August 2014 when they started planning Power of 100 Southwest, Women Who Care.

The new organization is inspired by other groups across the country with a similar mission: to see how powerful a $100 contribution can be. The method is simple. Every member or team (up to four women can share membership cost, but they only get one vote) contributes $100 at each quarterly meeting, where a local organization is then selected as recipient. “It’s simple and meaningful and powerful,” says founding member Jan Eian. Irene Kelly, another founding member, agrees. “It’s such an easy way for people to make a really big difference.”

After months of planning, Power of 100 held its inaugural meeting on April 23 at Biaggi’s in Eden Prairie. Ninety-two women gathered for an hour of networking over wine and appetizers, followed by a short program where the group decided on the winning organization. As founding member Stacy Newgaard points out, the goal was not only to create an opportunity for people to come together, but to “give them a voice of where their money goes.”

Before the meeting, members submit nominations. All nominated organizations must be within the state of Minnesota, and many are often smaller, less-known nonprofits that are close to a nominator’s heart. At the meeting, three organizations are randomly drawn, and the women who made the nominations must give a short presentation on why their organization should be chosen. Ballots are passed around, votes are cast and before everyone leaves for the night, the winner is announced. Richard M. Schulze, the founder of Best Buy, matches each $100 grant with $200, up to $12,500 for the organization per quarter.

In April, more than $8,000 was raised for the Theresa Living Center, a homeless shelter for women in St. Paul. As of press time, more than $8,000 had been raised for Oasis for Youth, an organization helping at-risk young people to become self-sufficient, contributing community members.

Although there is no shortage of ways to get involved in the community these days, the women in Power of 100 say joining the group was an easy decision. Unlike other organizations that involve a more intense time commitment, Power of 100 only meets quarterly for just two hours.

This was important for founding member Katie Kearney, a full-time working mom with two young kids and limited free time. “Working moms don’t have a lot of time to get out and give back like they want to,” she explains. “This makes it easier to do something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the time for.”

For Janene Phillips, who works primarily with men in the insurance industry, being a part of Power of 100 gave her something she couldn’t find elsewhere: a network of women.

And with members coming from diverse professions, from chiropractor to mortgage banker to CFO, there is potential for meaningful networking when Power of 100 gathers for a meeting. “As women, we should empower and support one another,” Phillips says.

There’s no denying the power of $100—just ask the recipients of the last two Power of 100 meetings. But the real strength of the group doesn’t lie in checkbooks. “I had no idea how powerful it would feel to be in a room with nearly 100 women who want to have an impact,” says Kelly.