Writer / Kara Reibel
One hundred women pitch in $1,000 each to award a $100,000 grant to a nonprofit. It’s a rather simple concept with remarkable results. With the tagline, “The Power of Women Giving as One,” the members of Impact 100 vote at their annual dinner to determine the recipient of their main grant of $100,000. This year’s winner is Ascent 121 and Lutheran Child & Family Services with their IMPACT Program to Curb Runaway and Human Trafficking of Young Girls.
“Ascent 121 provides recovery services for teen survivors here in Indiana. We are incredibly blessed to receive this grant,” says Ascent 121 CEO Megan McGuire. “The women of Impact 100 are an exceptional group committed to helping nonprofits get further faster, changing lives in the process. The funds from this grant will raise awareness by empowering our community to recognize the signs of trafficking. In addition, the grant will provide highly specialized training in trauma-informed skills for our staff, so that we can offer the best possible care for the survivors. Thank you, Impact 100!”
The three other finalists, IndyFringe with Ball State University, Art With a Heart and Dove Recovery House, each received residual grants of $18,333, for a total of $155,000 granted in one evening.
Each finalist delivered a seven-minute presentation to the Impact 100 membership. Following the presentations, Impact 100 members cast their ballots. The winner was announced after the votes were tallied, dinner had been served and desserts made available.
“We are a loud group,” says Bev Middaugh, owner of Bright Ideas in Broad Ripple. “But once the presentations begin, you could hear a pin drop.”
According to their Annual Giving Report, Impact 100 has awarded more than $1.7 million to local nonprofits to date. Thirteen $100,000 grants have been given. There are 122 individual members, 20 of which are shared memberships, and Impact 100 welcomes sponsors and other donors.
“Members can split their membership with other women, but it counts as one vote for the finalist,” says Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis President Beth Thomas. Thomas had served on the Board for Indy Reads, who was a recipient of the Impact 100 grant in 2007. She was impressed by the impact it had upon Indy Reads. “I am honored to help lead this incredible group of generous women. Through our collaborative efforts, we are able to deliver extraordinary gifts to nonprofits that, if done on our own, would not be as impactful. Our annual dinner is a wonderful opportunity to experience the power of women’s philanthropy while learning about the needs of our community and those working hard to make it a better place.”
According to Kelly Hartman, winning the $100,000 grant a couple years ago for her nonprofit, Outside the Box, was the most significant moment of her professional career. “I was overjoyed,” says Hartman, who co-founded the nonprofit to provide much-needed customized services to individuals with special needs. “Because of that grant, we were able to remodel the common areas of our facility. The results have helped so many people. It has been truly amazing.”
Founding member Donna Oklak started Impact 100 11 years ago. “Aside from our annual meeting, we have monthly meet-ups,” says Oklak, an experienced philanthropist. Colleen Willoughby was the originator of the concept of Impact 100 in 2002 in Seattle, Washington. Oklak was motivated to begin a chapter of Impact 100 in Indianapolis. “I got brave and emailed the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). My co-founder, Kelli Norwalk, and I figured it out and did it. We wanted other women to have the opportunity to review grant requests and experience what I had experienced with prior positions with nonprofit fundraising. It’s so rewarding.”
“It was a rainy night when Rob MacPherson with CICF stopped by to deliver a stack of 15 to 20 letters for our signatures, containing money from initial members. It was then that we knew we were on to something.”
“Consensus will find the right grantee,” says Oklak of the voting decision. “All of the women feel empowered. We own it. It is ours. It’s not the money you give; it’s the influence of that money and the ripple effects that make the process so powerful. Once a nonprofit makes it through the due diligence process, it gets exciting. When a nonprofit is promoted to the podium presentation by one of Impact’s focus area committees, there are more eyes on the potential grant project, and the idea is fully vetted. Over the years, Impact women have made many wonderful $100,000 grant selections.”
There is no paid staff for Impact 100. Their membership base is made up of overqualified volunteers that handle all of the needed tasks to keep the organization running smoothly.
Previous Impact grant recipients include Eskanazai/Pecar Health Center, John P. Craine House, Rock Steady Boxing, Indy Urban Acres, Indy Reads, Indy Urban Acres Flower Farm and the Social Health Association of Indiana.
Always welcoming new members, the next Impact 100 Indianapolis event will be July 11 to “Meet the Finalists” and will be held at Bright Ideas in Broad Ripple. For additional information, visit impact100indy.org.