There was no keynote speaker, no $100-a-plate dinner, no mingling over cocktails and catered hors d’oeuvres. Not even a table with cookies and tea.
There were no lively bidding wars for romance packages at local spa resorts or silent art auctions.
All of the money collected at this spartan fundraiser went directly to the beneficiary.
But it wasn’t a simple handout.
The gathering this month of the 100 Women Who Care Santa Fe was a friendly competition for local nonprofits — part lottery, part democracy, part speed dating. The prize: more than $10,000.
The more than 100 women who gathered at the Center for Spiritual Living, their checkbooks at the ready, had come to efficiently pool their resources — $100 each — and make a big difference for one Santa Fe nonprofit in fewer than 60 minutes.
“One hour, in and out,” said Katie Rountree, a co-founder of Women Who Care.
“There’s no middle person,” said Linda Walls, a three-year member of the group.
Over the past five years, the group has given over $150,000 to a score of organizations. It began with just 20 women. Now there are about 150, but organizers hope the group will grow to 1,000. Women can join individually or as a team. Like an individual, a team has one vote in the competitions, held four times a year. A team allows women to share the $100 donation.
Rountree and fellow Women Who Care co-founder Jody Feagan took the stage at the most recent event and began by randomly selecting three contestants from a basket containing the names of about a dozen nominated nonprofits. Executives of those organizations, some clutching visual aids, listened eagerly, hoping for a chance to make a whirlwind case for their cause.
The names drawn for the competition were Many Mothers, the Santa Fe Watershed Association and the Santa Fe Girls’ School. If the losing nonprofits were disappointed, they didn’t show it. The room filled with cheers and applause.
Representatives from the three finalists were given five minutes on the stage.
Nancy Guthrie, executive director of Many Mothers, was first. “We’re seeing a lot more families that I would call high need,” she told the crowd as she described the services her volunteers provide for parents with new babies.
Many clients are single mothers. Some are immigrants. Others are newcomers from around the country who don’t have family here.
“Isolation is a huge issue when you have a new child,” Guthrie said. “Lack of sleep,” she added, drawing laughs from mothers who remembered their own sleepless nights with a newborn.
The women had questions for Guthrie: What is Many Mothers’ annual budget? Where does the money come from? How many families does it serve? With $125,000, all private donations, she said, volunteers reach about 100 families a year.
“We’re growing,” she said. “The need is growing.”
Up next was Andy Otto, executive director of the Santa Fe Watershed Association, which was seeking funds for its public school program that gets kids out into the Santa Fe River watershed.
“One of my educators says we’re in the business of first hikes,” Otto said, explaining that for many students, the watershed venture is their first visit to the forest.
Otto, like Guthrie, was peppered with questions from the crowd. The Women Who Care want to know exactly where they’re putting their cash.
The final presenter, Pat Preib, director of advancement and admissions at the Santa Fe Girls’ School, brought a parent along to help sway the crowd.
She was seeking funds for the private school’s tuition assistance program. About a third of the students, some 40 girls in grades 6-8, receive financial aid, Preib said.
“Rather than leaving girls to navigate the challenges of adolescence themselves,” she said, “the Santa Fe Girls’ School celebrates a girl’s transition to womanhood and empowers young women to find and use their voices.”
Jamie Garcia, whose daughter, Gabriella, is a student there, spoke of how the experience has helped her flourish, both in and out of the classroom.
His wife had become interested in the school, Garcia said. She died before it was time for Gabriella to enroll. Garcia had hoped to honor his wife’s wishes, but he knew the annual tuition, more than $12,000, would be difficult to cover on one income.
The school’s assistance program, he said, made it possible for his daughter to attend.
Without further ado, it was time for the women to vote.
After hurried discussions and debates, they began casting their ballots into Feagan’s red basket.
Some said it was a tough decision.
“They were all such compelling presentations,” said Harriet Harris, who declined to reveal which nonprofit got her vote.
She joined Women Who Care because she was impressed with its ability to have an effect. “You really make a big difference very, very quickly,” Harris said.
In minutes, the votes were tallied.
The Santa Fe Girls’ School came out on top.
“We were absolutely thrilled,” said Lee Lewin, the school’s founder and program director. “… This will go a long way toward helping families who would like to attend our school.”
The girls’ school, which is also a voting member of Women Who Care, has had its name in the hat for two years. This was its first chance onstage as a finalist, an opportunity Lewin called nerve-wracking but exciting.
“It’s the luck of the draw,” Lewin said, “and we got lucky.”
The school hit a jackpot of more than $10,000.
Contact Cynthia Miller at 505-986-3095 or email@example.com.
On the web
• Learn more about 100 Women Who Care Santa Fe at 100womenwhocaresantafe.com.