A man, surrounded by 100 others, waits excitedly in the Davidson Auditorium in the Jindal School of Management for the first speaker to come on stage. As the lights dim and the presenter faces the audience, the man sits back and prepares to make a difference in his community.
Alumnus Charles Gillis is part of an informal group called 100 Men Who Give a Damn Dallas, and they have a unique way of bringing about change in the community. The group, which was co-founded by Gillis and alumnus Marv Bramlett, meets four times a year in the Davidson Auditorium in a shark tank-like scene, where three charities are invited to present their missions to the audience.
At the end of the night, the men vote for the charity they want to contribute to, and each person writes a minimum $100 check to that beneficiary. The winning charity receives all 100 checks.
“The whole concept is pretty simple,” Gillis said. “‘How can we raise awareness for local charities and how can we make a huge impact on one of them?’ Us getting together, we can at least raise 40 grand for four charities.”
When Gillis was in Nova Scotia two years ago, he came across a group called 100 Men Who Give a Damn Halifax. After joining the group, he told his soon-to-be co-founder Bramlett about the idea.
Eventually, 100 Men Who Give a Damn Halifax assisted the Dallas cohort in starting up the venture. A few challenges like finding a name, getting the website started, finding a location to host the meetings and publicizing the group arose at the get-go, but once everything was settled, about 100 men signed up and attended the first meeting.
The requirement to join the group is each member donates at least $100 quarterly. However, members can choose to donate more.
Now that they are fully established, 100 Men Who Give a Damn Dallas assists other branches with launching their charity efforts.
“Some folks from Denver, Chicago and Tennessee have reached out,” Bramlett said. “We are a direct lineage of 100 Men Who Give a Damn Halifax, and 100 Men Who Give a Damn Halifax are a direct offshoot of 100 Women Who Love Halifax.”
After watching charities present, the men vote on their preferences and the charity with the most votes receives at least $10,000. Although the other two charities of the night may not win the funding, they get the chance to present to a large audience, which gives them the opportunity to network and gain publicity.
Gillis said these efforts help streamline the process of doing good in the community for those who have newly joined the workforce.
“For a lot of young professionals, it’s a great foray into giving,” Gillis said. “Some of our younger members haven’t yet found a charity to commit to, so this is a really easy way to do it without being on a board or something.”
In November, the group met for the fourth time at UTD. After the three charities on the agenda had presented for the night, 22Kill, a group that aims to help veterans, won the cash prize.
“We are very humbled,” said Executive Director of 22Kill, Jacob Schick. “We really appreciate the 100 Men Who Give a Damn, and what they’re doing is a fresh idea. We couldn’t be more appreciative. Every charity that was there deserved to win, but we are blessed and fortunate we came out on top.”
The donations not only affect the winning charities, but the members who do the giving.
“It’s humbling to be able and look these folks in the eye and hand in those stacks of checks,” Bramlett said. “How humbling it is to help these folks and to see it in their eyes when they thank you.”
The group emphasizes the idea that there is strength in numbers.
“The idea of bringing 100 guys into a room and getting a $100 check from each of them, that’s the power of the herd mentality,” Bramlett said. “We’ve had a couple of guys say, ‘I’ve never been a part of anything like this, this is the kind of thing that you always dream about.’ To be able to get together with a hundred other charitable-minded brethren and talk about the good things that are happening in our community, it’s just a fascinating thing. This is just a great way to give back to the community.”
After the winning charity receives the checks, they are asked to come back to the next meeting to share what they did with the contributions, so the men can see first-hand how they impacted someone’s life.
“Aug. 25 was our third meeting,” Bramlett said “Children’s Cancer Fund came in and they had been the recipients at our second meeting, which we had given them about $11,000. They made a presentation which I’m telling you, grown men much more manly than I am were out there just weeping! It was unbelievable to see (Children’s Cancer Fund) saying ‘Thank you so much for what you’ve done, you’re going to help save other kids.’”
Executive MBA student Chris Azzaretto joined 100 Men Who Give a Damn Dallas on its second meeting.
“You know, we have so much and it’s really easy to get lost in that and always want more,” Azzaretto said. “It’s refreshing to take a step back every now and then and be able to help other people.”
The group plans on continuing their charitable efforts in the future and expanding as more members join. In fact, a few members want to start 100 Men Who Give a Damn Frisco sometime in 2017.
“We’re going to make this community a lot better around us,” Bramlett said. “The reason we do it? Well, we do it is because we just give a damn!”