Detroit Soup nonprofit marking 5 years with fundraiser

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit Soup, where strangers connect over soup, ideas and a vote, is celebrating its five-year anniversary with a fundraising party at Ford Field on Feb. 15.

The nonprofit organization holds monthly dinners to raise money for startups in Detroit. It has raised more than $85,000 from 97 dinners since 2010, providing grants from $110 to more than $2,000.

Past winners include the Empowerment Plan, which makes coats for the homeless that double as sleeping bags, and Rebel Nell, a jewelry-making business whose owners employ disadvantaged women.

Soup director Amy Kaherl said the party will feature past winners, live entertainment and other acts. General admission tickets are $25 and VIP are $125.

“It’s a celebration and looking back on the last five years. Wow — what a great bunch of ideas,” she said.

After receiving grants from three major funders — United Way of Southeastern Michigan ($50,000), the Skillman Foundation ($40,000) and the New Economy Initiative ($30,000) — the crowd-funding organization is in a better position now than it was last year when, Kaherl says, funding became scarce during the city’s bankruptcy.

The organization has been able to raise $100,000 to stay afloat. Kaherl would like to see that number grow to $150,000.

“We need the community. We can’t wait around for the somebody else. We have to be the somebody else,” she said.

Soup started out as a monthly dinner, but has expanded to include quarterly events in nine neighborhoods. It works with residents in Brightmoor, central communities, downtown, East Jefferson, Grandmont Rosedale, the North End, Hamtramck, Highland Park and the Livernois Corridor.

At the dinners, participants pay $5 and listen to four business proposals.

After the pitches, participants vote for their favorite and gather for a buffet-style dinner of soup, salad and any other donated food. The winner is announced after dinner and receives money collected at the door. Each Soup dinner costs about $1,000 to stage.

“We don’t take a cut from any of the dinners we do. We do them in the neighborhoods to see what people are thinking. Soup is a unique opportunity to understand what is happening in communities,” Kaherl said.

The idea of having the fundraiser in Ford Field, Kaherl said, is to explore what new ideas and new venues could be in store for future projects and ideas.

“I’m a theologian by education. Sports games have become our new cathedrals. Wouldn’t it be fun to do art, entrepreneurship in Ford Field? It’s something different for us. What else can a place that is only active 10 weeks be? What else can be done?” she said.

Event details are at

What is Detroit Soup?

It’s a micro-granting dinner celebrating and supporting creative projects in Detroit.

For a donation of $5, attendees receive soup, salad, bread and a vote and hear four presentations ranging from art, urban agriculture, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology and more. Presenter have four minutes to share their idea and answer four questions from the audience. At the event, attendees eat, talk, share resources, enjoy art and vote on the project they think benefits the city the most. At the end of the night, ballots are counted and the winner goes home with all of the money raised to carry out their project. Winners come back to a future Soup dinner to report their project’s progress.

Source: Detroit Soup