BY KELLY KENDALL
It’s like the reality television series Shark Tank but for philanthropy: Members of 50+ Men Who Care of Monroe County show up at Bloomington Country Club four times a year on a Thursday night, each with a $125 blank check in hand.
Many of the men arrive already prepared with the name of a nonprofit organization they want to help and background information about what the organization does. Three will have their names drawn at random to give a presentation.
“The presentations can be quite heartfelt — more along the lines of a testimonial,” says Steve Martin, a retired real estate and nonprofit consultant, who helped start the group.
Each man gets seven minutes to make his pitch, and three to answer questions. Then the group votes, and one nonprofit organization is declared the winner. Attendees make out their checks, and those not in attendance are notified by email. “Just because you’re not there doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay,” Martin says.
When all of the checks are collected, they’re given to the winning nonprofit.
Inspired by 100+ Women Who Care of Bloomington, the men’s group began last spring. “I just looked around and thought, ‘This sounds exactly like what we were saying we wanted to do — make a difference in the community and not spend a lot of money through administration to do it,’” says Martin. In addition to committing to $125 donations at each meeting, members pay an annual $100 membership fee, which goes into an endowment fund at the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County.
Martin says group members feel good about the local emphasis — only nonprofit groups registered with the Community Foundation are eligible. “More and more money seemed to be going out of the community, and then those nonprofits were having to go to their national organizations and ask for a grant back,” says Martin. “That didn’t seem right.
“People have been very receptive because it gives them an opportunity to look at getting money to different groups than they normally would give to.”