How “100 Women Who Care” Are Changing Philanthropic Giving in Seattle

by Paul Nelson

Non-profit organizations are one of the key facets in our society. They have missions that are service-oriented, not profit-oriented, and yet are the one business where one can work and not get paid.

That is, a non-profit organization can apply for a grant, put in hours or research, writing and editing time and get a NO from the granting agency and wonder how ends will meet. That makes the approach of 100 Women Who Care Great Seattle so impressive. A giving circle with a core team of volunteers that support the planning of all their events, this group invites representatives from non-profit organizations to make presentations and the next day get awards like the $8,000 awarded to the Seward Park Fern Die-Off research project.

Their next event is February 12th at Art Marble 21.

Anyone is welcome to attend their events with no obligation. But to nominate non-profits to add to their existing list and vote, one must be a member. The Emerald spoke with, Paula Rothkopf, one of the group’s leaders.

Paul E Nelson: The first time I heard about the group 100 Women Who Care Greater Seattle, it was in the context of an update on the Seward Park fern die-off story. When I heard about the process of how the die off investigation was funded, I was kind of astonished, having run a nonprofit organization and having applied for a good number of grants, most of which we didn’t get. So to hear how 100 Women Who Care Greater Seattle funded the effort to attempt to figure out why the ferns are dying off in Seward Park, I thought it was a beautiful story. Paula, tell us a little bit about the group and about the Seward Park aspect of it.

Paula Rothkopf:  We’re a group of women that meet three times a year and we have a list of charities. Once you are a member, you get to nominate your favorite charities. We have a long list of charities and at each event we choose three charities and invite them to our next event to come and speak with us. The charities get to tell their story and we get to ask questions. It’s a great experience because we really learn about the nonprofits.

In 2014 we started with 18 members and we’re very excited that we’ve now grown to over 100 members, which makes our donation very significant.

Paul E Nelson: Tell us specifically about Seward Park. How did you find out about the situation with the ferns dying off there and how did you end up writing them a check for $8,000?

Paula Rothkopf: Well, to be honest, the way it happened was one of our members who grew up in Seattle and had always gone to Seward Park and she was looking at their classes and noticed the story on the ferns and what the park does through Friends of Seward Park, and she thought, “Wow, that would be a great nonprofit. I’m going to nominate them.” So she nominated them and then they were selected at our event and they came to speak. So it was just that one member knew about Friends of Seward Park.

Paul E Nelson: Were you there at the meeting where the presentation was given and if so, can you tell us what your impressions are and why it was compelling?

Paula Rothkopf: Well, it was very interesting because the three nonprofits that came to speak, one was the Millionaire Club that supports homeless and one was, I can’t quite remember the name, but they support senior citizens and then Friends of Seward Park spoke and Paul Shannon presented his case. He said, “How do I convince you to choose us as the nonprofit when we’re competing with homeless services and senior citizens?” But he really presented the case well in that our environment and our community is as important as the people in our environment and community and telling the stories about our native ferns dying, the Northwest, and their struggle to raise funds to do the research just won us over and the majority of the folks in the room voted for Friends of Seward Park. It was a very compelling story.

Paul E Nelson: And the next day they get a check for $8,000.

Paula Rothkopf:  That’s right because each woman who was a member writes a check for $100 and then there are quite a few members who have matching gift funds with their corporations. And so between the members contributing $100 each and the corporations, it came up to $8,000.

Paul E Nelson: The people who are giving the nonprofit stump speeches leave the room and then is there dialogue? Is there debate? Does it get heated? Can you tell us about that process?

Paula Rothkopf: Yes, we do open it up for questions and discussion. It’s really an eye opener for us learning about these nonprofits and the discussions are just very open. It’s a very short discussion because we really do have question and answers with each of the nonprofits. And so the discussion afterwards is just to clarify a few points that somebody might have heard that they want to clarify.

Paul E Nelson: The fact that the group is named 100 Women Who Care Greater Seattle suggests that there are other chapters around the country. So can you tell us about how big of an organization we’re dealing with?

Paula Rothkopf: Well, we’re all part of 100 Who Care Alliance, which is an umbrella organization in Michigan. This whole concept started in 2006 where a woman was attending a center for family health and they were talking about women with newborns and not having cribs. A simple thing. And so one woman got the idea, “Well, what if I networked with a whole bunch of people and everybody contributes a certain amount? Maybe we could raise the money” and they did. So the concept took off and there are over 500 chapters in the United States. In Washington back in 2014 when we started, there were only three or four chapters, but now Washington State has 11 chapters. In fact, three people from our chapter left and started their own chapter to have a chapter closer to home. So I mean, we’re widespread, but now there’s a chapter in Tacoma and there’s one in Everett. So they’re spread out all over Washington.

Paul E Nelson: Can a man join the group?

Paula Rothkopf: We’re just a little uncertain about where we’re going with that. So it’s hard for me to answer that question right now. We do want to grow. We’ve read about groups where they’ve had 100 Men Who Care and 100 Women and they join together for a large group because we would like to actually reach 200. We believe this greater Seattle area, that there is enough women who have the passion for giving that we can join together and we can make a real significant impact.

Paul E Nelson: Isn’t there something in the appeal of a gender-exclusive groups in this time where the ERA remains un-passed, we’ve never had a woman president, we’ve had one woman presidential nominee and she loses to somebody like Donald Trump. The glass ceiling continues to exist. Women don’t get paid as much as men. Isn’t there something compelling about women getting together and saying, “You know what? We’re going to do this ourselves.”

Paula Rothkopf:  You know, that’s a really good point. It is empowering for women to be able to do that and it’s really a new wave of philanthropy where together you could make a big difference. So for women who maybe don’t have thousands to donate, by being part of the group like that you can feel like you’re making a difference because pooling our resources, we’re now 114. That’s over $10,000 and that’s in one night. One hour. So it’s very simple and yes, it gives you a feeling of empowerment in being able to do something like that.

Paul E Nelson: So you say this is the new wave of how philanthropy is happening. Contrast it with the old way that you’re breaking from.

Paula Rothkopf: I think the old way is there are lots of nonprofits and they have fundraisers, but a nonprofit has to be able to have funds to do fundraisers. And so a lot of times what we’re doing is supporting the smaller nonprofits that don’t have ways of doing fundraisers. And so they have a website and you can donate online, but that way they’re getting smaller donations, $50 here or $100 there, whereas this new way allows the nonprofit to get a significant amount that they can make more useful.

So it’s way better than the old way. And you’re more informed about who you’re donating to. You can get emails and things about this nonprofit, that nonprofit. Which one do you give to? Being part of this group, you learn about the nonprofits so you’re making an informed decision and I know for myself, it’s just feels so much better when I can decide after hearing about the nonprofits. Every meeting we’ve had, people have been so excited to learn about the nonprofits, meeting them in person, and a lot of members have actually connected with the nonprofits afterwards and have become  volunteers and supporters. So, it’s a good way of networking too. The old way, donating online or just mailing in a check, you’re so far removed from it. This is way better, I think.

Paul E Nelson:  How did you first get involved in the group?

Paula Rothkopf: It was just a friend of mine who had a friend who heard about the 100 Women in Michigan and she decided to start one in Seattle and she invited me and I became the PR person and grew the membership from 18 members to now, 114.

Paul E Nelson:  South Seattle has its own sort of special needs. The rates of income are lower in South Seattle. It’s a different place and yet Seward Park of course might be the jewel. That or Kubota Garden of South Seattle. So is there any special consideration for organizations that are based in this part of the city?

Paula Rothkopf: Well, that’s a good question because I think if we could get more women from different parts of the city, then we’d learn about the nonprofits that support the different areas of the city. Because some of our nonprofits are very neighborhood-specific and we don’t discriminate. Anybody who qualifies as a nonprofit, who services any area in Seattle, goes on our list. So it would be good for the people like Columbia City and those areas, if we could get those women to join. I mean we do have women from all over the city. No doubt, and a very diverse group too, but it would be nice to have more participation from different areas.

Paul E Nelson: Right. And how do you do outreach? How do you create the word that there’s a need for women interested in making a change to get involved in the organization?

Paula Rothkopf:  I’ve published articles in neighborhood newspapers, although sometimes neighborhood newspapers have said, “Hey, it’s not happening in my neighborhood.” And it’s like, “Well, but this is a community thing for all neighborhoods.” So it’s been a little bit of a struggle. We do have a Facebook presence and we did pursue the Seattle Times to write a story about us and it just so happens that Friends of Seward Park was the nonprofit for that event. And so an article was published and we got a huge response from people on the East Side, Seattle, all over. Search us out online because the article didn’t even have our website. But if you do search 100 Women Who Care of Greater Seattle, we pop up. And of course, doing something like this is helping us get the word out. We definitely would like participation from all neighborhoods in Seattle.

Paul E Nelson:  Really grateful for your time and especially grateful for your efforts. To run a nonprofit and to hear that there’s a presentation and the next day there’s a check for $8,000 is a revolutionary and you know, I’m really envious of the fern people. I wish I could have that kind of experience. I hope that what you do catches on and I wish you continued success.

Paula Rothkopf:  Well, thank you so much, Paul, for your time and a pleasure to talk with you.

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The list of four recent non-profits 100 WWCGS has supported and a summary of their missions statements.

Lambert House: 

Lambert House provides a safe and caring environment for LGBTQ youth, empowering them through the development of leadership, social and life skills. This is a place where they can make connections with their peers and most important with the 75 adult volunteers that serve as positive role models and are always there to support them.

Ladybug House: 

“We are building Washington’s first family-centered respite care home for children, adolescents and young adults with life-threatening illnesses. If we cannot add days to the life of a child, we will add life to their days. “

West Seattle FoodbankThe Backpack Program – Filling the Gap in Children’s Nutrition 

“Local West Seattle school staff identify youth for the program, pick their designated food up from the food bank and ensure the food gets to them every Friday afternoon – discreetly.”

New Beginnings: 

New Beginnings empowers survivors and mobilizes community awareness and action to end domestic violence. They provide services/connections to meet with advocates, join a support group, help with housing and parenting, legal needs and mental health counseling.

Pink Daisy Project: 

Provide the essentials to help women cope and heal through the everyday challenges of this disease.

“We aren’t raising money for research or awareness. Our goals are simple: to help young women cope with the hardships of breast cancer treatment by providing care and comfort.”

From the founder of Pink Daisy, Debbie Cantwell:

“I want to help people in a way that’s not available elsewhere. To be a friend to those who need one. If I could gather up all the young women facing breast cancer who have no one to lean on and be their friend, buy their groceries, cook their meals, clean their houses and care for their children, I would.”

The list of current nominated 100WWCGS non-profits:

Their next event is February 12th at Art Marble 21. See:

Anyone is welcome to come to 100 WWCGS events with no obligation. To nominate non-profits and vote, one must be a member. See:

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Featured image: 100 Women Who Care Greater Seattle with Friends of Seward Park members. (Photo Courtesy of 100 Women Who Care Greater Seattle)