Desha Bymers-Davis

2023 Greater Tucson Leadership Tucson Woman of the Year

By Valerie Vinyard

A fractured foot, a Facebook post and a love for philanthropy all led to the formation of a local nonprofit that in April will celebrate reaching $1 million in donations to other charities.

Desha Bymers-Davis is the force behind that not-for-profit, 100+ Women Who Care Tucson, which she founded in 2015 after she was laid up with a broken bone and saw a social media post from a sorority sister who had started a chapter in Omaha, Neb.

Hundreds of 100+ Women Who Care chapters exist and more are popping up all the time, but Bymers-Davis is the one who made it happen in Tucson.

“I think what Desha has done to create really a community of philanthropy, a philosophy of caring in our community, is pretty amazing,” said Justin Lukasewicz, CEO of Greater Tucson Leadership, which named Bymers-Davis its 2023 Woman of the Year. 

Bymers-Davis completed GTL’s leadership academy in 2020. She’ll be honored along with other award winners at a March 22 ceremony at Casino del Sol. 

Members of 100+ Women Who Care contribute $100 per quarter and attend a 60-minute “Big Give” event where the funding recipient is chosen. The most recent Big Give – events are always held at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa − drew 410 guests and members. “The model is one hour, $100 dollars, $10,000 in impact,” Bymers-Davis said. “This levels the playing field so people can be philanthropists.”

Bymers-Davis also helped launch 100+ Men Who Care Tucson, which has nearly 100 members, and 100+ Teens Who Care Tucson, which has more than 200 members who contribute $25 per quarter. “To be able to instill in teens in our community a culture of philanthropy, that’s going to make a difference in Tucson for generations,” Lukasewicz said.

The nonprofit’s model is simple:      Every quarter, members of 100+ Women Who Care Tucson nominate nonprofits, which are vetted, to receive funding. Members then gather at Big Give gatherings and the names of three nominees are drawn. The nominators pitch their nonprofits, and members vote on the winner. “It’s very different. It’s not nonprofits telling where the money goes,” Bymers-Davis said.

Anyone can attend Big Give events, which are around 60 minutes long, for free. The next one, on April 18, will celebrate 100+ WWC Tucson’s million-dollar mark. “It’s a great place to network and meet people. You can come as a guest to experience us – no one’s trying to sell anything. Everyone comes together with an open heart.”

As of February, the organization had 591 members. “We gain some and lose some every quarter, but we’re continually growing. The bigger we get, the more people are talking about it, so we grew a lot in the past few years.”

Treasures 4 Teachers Tucson is one of two charities that have twice received funding from 100+ Women Who Care Tucson: It received more than $21,000 in 2018 and $56,000 in 2023, plus $8,000 from 100+ Men Who Care Tucson.

The organization runs a shop where teachers can pick up donated supplies. In 2018, “We didn’t even have a sign. We had nothing,” said Treasures 4 Teachers Tucson director Adrienne Ledford, who had joined 100+ Women Who Care Tucson that same year. “When we won it this time I was in tears. We struggle to stay open. It’s a lot of work. When you get money from them it gives you peace of mind.”

As a 100+ Women Who Care Tucson member, Ledford said, “it’s great to see winners jump up and down and scream” when they find out at the Big Give they’ve been selected for funding. 

Giving circles such as 100+ Women Who Care are increasingly popular, Bymers-Davis said, and that proved true right from the start in Tucson.

“The Phoenix chapter of 100+ Women Who Care told us if we had 35 to 45 women show up that would be a considered huge success. We had over 150 women show up at our first meeting, showing that Tucson women have a heart for giving and were interested in a new way of being philanthropic in our community,” Bymers-Davis said. “It resonated with the women of Tucson that they can have their donation amplified and they get a say in where their donations go.”

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