It’s safe to say that before Alicia Curtis co-founded 100 Women, she wasn’t just sitting around watching the tomatoes grow! Alicia has been actively involved in helping others for most of her life. At just 12 years of age she attended the first International Children’s Conference on the Environment run by the United Nations, and then co-founded her own children’s conference called Kids Helping Kids. This organisation still exists today, now known as Millennium Kids.
In 2002 Alicia established a leadership training consultancy and has developed leadership programs for young people and young professionals, and created a blog, Revolutionary Lives that hosts online summits to inspire people to live fulfilling lives that contribute to the greater good.
A few years ago Alicia read the book Half the Sky, a book which she describes as “pretty confronting!” Written by international journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn about the discrimination that women face around the world. Alicia says “In the book, they call this discrimination the most shocking and widespread human rights violation of our age, because it just continues to happen under our noses. The book’s introduction starts by telling you about a Cambodian teenager, her name is Rath, who is kidnapped and sold into the sex trade. Then it goes on to tell you about acid attacks, genital mutilation, girls around the world missing out on food, vaccinations or selective abortions. All in the introduction!”
“I thought to myself I can’t sit by any longer and not try to do something positive against these challenges that still exist for women. These women are just like you and me, full of potential but without the means to realise their hopes and dreams. But what could I do? How could I use my time, expertise and financial resources to make a difference?”
“What struck me the most in the book was the knowledge that when we invest in women the outcomes are far reaching. The book showcases that whole communities prosper when women are safe, educated and have access to health and economic opportunities. When you invest in a woman, she reinvests the majority of what she is given back into her family and community. So I shared the 100 Women idea with my good friend Megan. Immediately, she liked the idea. Simple, collaborative and the potential to make a huge difference. We started working on it right away.”
What is 100 Women?
“100 Women is a giving circle where members donate $1200 per year to a pooled fund that is distributed to organisations based on a rigorous grant making process and is completed by members voting on the causes chosen. Our vision is to ignite women’s philanthropy through the power of collective giving to advance the empowerment of all women. As a member, you have an opportunity to be involved in the grant making process as much or as little as you want. You’ll be invited to participate in grant assessment evenings, site visits, online voting and develop long term relationships with the grant recipients.”
How did you progress it to action?
“We knew we would have to bring together a committee to take this idea to the next level. So we put a call out through our social media networks for different positions on the committee. We eventually pulled together 10 people from a wide variety of backgrounds – marketing, business development, grants, community and finance. It was a dream team really.”
“Passionate, savvy and committed. This team has built 100 Women from scratch, everything from setting up the organisations tax deductibility, building our membership base, designing the grants process and running our events. We launched in March 2014. 8 months later we had attracted 85 donors to give $1200 each, totalling to $100,000 to give away in our first year! We granted this money to three causes – both local and international projects.”
What do you see 100 Women achieving in the future?
“We believe there is a great opportunity to inspire and empower women to learn more about philanthropy and put it into action. Of course, 100 Women is open to anyone who wants to improve the lives of women and girls around the world – but we also want to play our part in helping women find their philanthropic feet. We want to disassociate philanthropy with just the ultra-wealthy. We believe that everyday people can be philanthropists.”
How can individuals and organisations get involved?
To become a 100 Women member who donates, it’s a minimum donation of $1200 to receive a vote in grants process. Organisations can join as members or sponsors of 100 Women too. You can join together with others as a mini circle, to collectively achieve the minimum $1200 donation. All donations are tax deductible. To join go here otherwise to read about the experience of joining as a mini circle go here.
Alicia’s advice for someone who sees a need, but doesn’t know where or how to start?
If the courageous women written about in Half the Sky, can overcome adversity and still change the world, what excuse do we have not to make a difference? What can we do to create an everlasting legacy?
Join together with others who share your values and can embrace your vision. The diversity of skills, knowledge and strengths is powerful when you bring together like minded people. I couldn’t have started 100 Women by myself and we’ve achieved all that we have through bringing together strong teams. You have to find supporters at all different levels too – committee members, ambassadors, media and business. You have to be unafraid to make the ask and encourage people to get involved.