Katrina Diles (Yukon Girls Rock Camp), Andy Cunningham (Co-founder, 100 People Who Give a Damn Dawson), Lana Welchman (Co-founder, 100 People Who Give a Damn Dawson & Founder, Yukon Girls Rock Camp), Kim Martens (Humane Society Dawson) and Tanja Westland (Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program) are part of the new support network in Dawson

Andy Cunningham first heard about 100 Men Who Give a Damn while living in Nova Scotia several years ago. The organization used a unique approach to raising money for non-profits in the community–one that was simple, but unlike anything Cunningham had seen before. Members made regular donations to the group. Multiple times a year, they then nominated and voted for deserving groups to give the money to.

About a year ago, Cunningham (who now lives in Dawson City) and his wife, Lana Welchman, were sitting in the local tavern discussing community needs and support. That’s when Cunningham remembered the group in Nova Scotia.

“I said to Lana, we should do something like this in Dawson–there are lots of people who care for their community, lots of small groups that can benefit, it’s a great place for this.”

Welchman agreed.

“A group like this also brings some awareness to things that are happening here, who the non-profits are, who we can donate to. It invites people to tune in,” sais Welchman.

The pair started to research, looking at other groups across the country that had the same approach. They also noticed that most of the organizations used the same sort of title, incorporating the words “men” or “women” who cared. Both Welchman and Cunningham wanted to include everyone though.

“Dawson is small. We wanted to open it up to everyone and everything, so we decided on 100 People Who Give a Damn,” said Cunningham. Welchman said that in order to keep it as grassroots as possible, there is no board, no bank account and no rules.

“It’s a non-organization,” she said with a smile.

Here’s how it works in Dawson: anyone can sign up to be a member of the group. Members agree to write a $100 cheque once every four months. Members can then nominate a deserving group before one of three meetings per year. All nominations are put into a hat, then three names are randomly picked. The three are contacted and invited to come to the next meeting to give a five-minute presentation on their needs and how the money would be used.

“Just them and a microphone, nothing else,” said Cunningham. The people in the room then vote on which group will receive the money. This is where the only rule comes in.

“You have to be in the room to vote,” said Welchman. “If people want to give, but can’t make it, that’s fine, but you can’t vote unless you’re there.”

The winning group then goes to the next meeting and gives an update on how the money was used. After that, the group has to wait a year before they can be nominated again. This way, other organizations have a chance. At first, Cunningham and Welchman debated whether to split the donated money between the three groups, but ultimately decided against it.

“We wanted to compound the funds for real change,” said Welchman, noting that one large sum can have more impact than three smaller ones.

After finding support from local businesses and organizations to get a website together, secure a meeting hall, arrange free advertising and a location for dropping off cheques, 100 People Who Give A Damn had its first meeting in April of 2018. It was a success, and the first group to win was Humane Society Dawson.

“For an organization like ours that depends mostly on donations and fundraising, and has to work so hard to keep money in the bank, it’s such a privilege to receive such a large amount from the community,” said Katie Pearse, president of the Humane Society Dawson. “And the support we felt from the community, was amazing!” She said the society used the money to fund a much-needed summer student at the shelter.

While meetings are short, lasting only one hour, Cunningham said it’s also an opportunity for social time with the community.

“It brings together people who aren’t normally in a room together–it draws a good mix of community members and is a way to connect with different groups, find out what’s going on and see that non-profits need help,” he said.

Ultimately, the goal (and Welchman’s personal dream) is to have a meeting where 100 people show up, donate $100 each and are then able to offer a total of $10,000 to a community group. In the meantime, 100 People Who Give a Damn is doing all right. It its first year of operation, it has given away close to $9,000 in total to three different non-profit groups including Humane Society Dawson, Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program Dawson City and Girls Rock Camp.

Visit 100PeopleDawson.com for more information.