DALLAS — It’s a Wednesday night at the movies, and tickets for one theater are running $100 apiece. But no films will be shown. Instead, the feature presentations will come from three local charities. They will pitch their mission in a theater set aside by the Alamo Drafthouse in Lake Highlands.
"They get five minutes to speak and present," said Dallas realtor Ben Lauer, who founded a local chapter of men who each put up one 'Benjamin' for their once-a-quarter meeting where they hear about three causes and then vote to determine which one gets their collective donation.
The group, which started as 100 Men of East Dallas, now goes by the name 100 Men of Dallas. Lauer says their regular get-togethers combine social hour with social responsibility.
"You can do something great in your extremely local community...and you can do that without even putting your beer down," he said.
As the ballots are tallied following the presentations, each man in attendance contributes his hundred dollars. The charity with the most votes takes all the money.
For small non-profits that usually scrounge for donations or have to navigate the arduous process of applying for grants, Lauer says this is refreshingly easy.
"You don't have to jump through a lot of hoops or do a lot of work," he said. It’s fast cash, but it can have a long-lasting impact on a small charity.
"It can be the difference between keeping the doors open or having to shut it down and do something else."
At a previous session, The 100 Men of Dallas gave the big pot of money to Alley's House.
“I was so excited, I called my mom,” says Alley's House executive director Brenna Wriston. “For us walking away with a gift of $5,500...it was life changing."
The scrappy outfit supplies teenage moms with essential items and helps the young mothers get their GEDs. Wriston said that winning the $5,500 helped Alley’s House buy new textbooks, and they can now pay the hundreds of dollars for each mom's academic tests.
"Each one of those men there that night purchased a GED for a teen mom, in my eyes."
Looking to follow that good deed with another, the men met again months later at the Alamo Drafthouse.
WFAA watched them vote. Some selected Forerunner Mentoring. Some voted for Exodus Ministries. But the most votes, and the $4,200 check, went to After 8 To Educate, an organization that gives shelter to DISD students who are homeless.
"$4,200 means we can buy beds that are comfortable — you don’t realize what a good night's sleep is until you can't get one anymore," site manager Billy Lane said.
The happy ending at the movies is once again created by a simple script: Men making their individual contributions go further, by giving as a group.
"They're not worried about who's name is on the building, and they're not worried about when we roll the credits," Lane said. "What they are trying to aim at is the most impact, and that is extremely encouraging."
The men will be meeting again for their next crowdfunding event August 14th at Stirr in Deep Ellum.