‘Shark Tank for nonprofits’ pledges $10,000 to winning group


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Their pitch is pretty straightforward: Show up, have a beer and write a $100 check to a nonprofit.

That’s the idea behind a new, informal fundraising group called 100 Man ATX, and it’s one that Jordan Gristy and Noah Vennes readily admit they stole from others like it around the country.

Regardless of where the proposition came from, Gristy and Vennes plan to have enough buy-in to donate $10,000 four times a year to four nonprofits.

The next meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Austin Beerworks. Three nonprofits will give eight-minute presentations, and then all the people present vote for which they want to donate to. 

“For lack of a better word, it’s like a ‘Shark Tank’ for nonprofits,” Vennes said.

Members of 100 Man ATX pledge to donate their $100 to the winning group, no exceptions, whether they’re physically at the meeting or not.

“We want to be able to tell these nonprofits that there will be $10,000 there,” Gristy said.

The first meeting, just 34 guys showed up; the pair hopes to double that for Tuesday’s meeting. By the fourth meeting they hope to have 100 members, but until then a local foundation is filling the gap, donating the difference between what they raise and the $10,000.

The first winner was the group Fostering Hope, an organization that provides resources and training for new foster parents and certifies babysitters to work with kids in foster care.

“They were an integral part in helping my husband and I decide that we were going to foster,” Meghann Presley said last week, playing on a northwest Austin playground with her biological kids. Her family just finished their first foster placement, in which they took in two young boys.

“We had an amazing support team. We had friends who would go and get groceries for us when the entire family had a stomach bug, which happened,” she said. “People would come and babysit so that we could have time alone.”

Fostering Hope was part of that support team, and like most nonprofits, they need donations to survive. 

The $10,000 donation from 100 Man ATX was “a big surprise,” director of programs Anna Valdez said, because they were competing against two other worthy nonprofits.

The money will allow them to train 200 people, either new foster parents or babysitters, in trauma-informed care, a major part of what the group does, Valdez said. “That’s almost a year of babysitters that we can train.”

For the two that don’t win, it’s not a total loss. “They were like, ‘That’s fantastic, that’s great, because at the very least we just got to talk to 100 guys,'” Gristy remembered the nonprofits telling him when he pitched them on the idea.

“The other two nonprofits that presented,” Vennes added, “a lot of guys actually cut them checks as well.”

Around 30 nonprofits have already signed on to have a chance at competing, the only requirements being that a group must be a local 501(c)(3) in existence for more than a year. Gristy and Vennes choose the competitors at random, so there’s no favoritism toward specific causes The three presenting Tuesday are Beyond the Grade, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping music in Austin schools; the mentorship program Seedling; and the Texas Fair Defense Project

The pair decided to focus their efforts on bringing men together because they saw an untapped market in guys who wanted to help but either didn’t know how or didn’t feel they had the time to commit to fundraising. “We call it low-commitment and high-impact,” Vennes said.

It was inspired by other similar groups around the country, in particular 100 Man Give a Damn in Marble Falls, a group Gristy heard about from friends.

If they surpass 100 members in Austin, the two said, they plan to split the excess into other branches. They’re also looking for ways to incorporate women and families into future iterations.

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