Impact100 was founded by Wendy Steele in 2001 when she recognized that women continued to be faced with barriers that prevented their involvement in community service and philanthropy. Although women’s roles had evolved, the vehicles for their leadership and philanthropic contribution had not kept pace with their new reality.
The Impact100 Model is as simple as it is powerful: gather at least 100 women, who each donate $1,000. Pool 100% of that money together and offer it back to the local community in grants of at least $100,000 across five broad Focus Areas: Education, Health & Wellness, Arts & Culture, Family, and Environment, Preservation, & Recreation. The Model is based on the belief that empowering diverse women to collaborate and seek solutions to our most pressing problems will ignite powerful, transformational change in our communities.
When looking at Impact100 members across the footprint, we find that approximately 50% of women who join have never given a gift of $1,000 to a single charity prior to joining Impact100. This is not necessarily because they did not have the capacity to give at that level. In some cases, they may have given several smaller donations that may have equaled or even exceeded $1,000, but this was their first significant gift. The other 50% of members are what we call “seasoned philanthropists,” as these women have given $1,000 or more to a single charity before joining and see Impact100 as an addition to their giving portfolio.
Attracting and retaining diverse women to join Impact100 is a key element of success for every Impact100 chapter. When we define diversity in this context, we seek and celebrate the diversity of every measure that makes each of us unique. This diversity of thought and experience is part of what makes the Impact100 grant process so successful. Discussing the merits of a grant application around a table that represents all parts of our defined geography, women of all ages, philanthropic experience, economic stature, and perspective results in robust dialogue where each member’s voice affects the grant decision. By democratizing philanthropy, we allow every voice an equal place at the table which results in powerful outcomes for our grants and fostering unexpected friendships among women whose paths would not otherwise cross.
For our members, the experience of leading and learning opens new avenues for involvement as their understanding and experience grow. Many find the Impact100 experience as the pathway to additional philanthropy, community leadership, and increased community commitment.
One of the defining characteristics of Impact100 is the high Impact grants of $100,000. These significant grants are designed to allow nonprofits to dream big and design a project that will provide transformational results in addressing a critical community need. Impact100 grant review committees assess each application to ensure the applicants moving forward represent transformational and sustainable impact as a lens for success.
Grant applicants are invited to apply for our grants across five broad Focus Areas. Integral to the Impact100 Model is the notion that healthy, resilient communities need robust commitment to Education, Health & Wellness, Family, Arts & Culture, and Environment to truly thrive.
Impact100 Global Council
As the leading organization empowering women to transform communities through generosity, we have much to celebrate. Beginning with a Cincinnati community, Impact100 has grown through grassroots word of mouth with leaders rising up in more than 60 communities around the globe. In each case, the Impact100 Model, along with coaching directly from Wendy Steele, the Founder of Impact100, as well as peer-to-peer coaching from Impact100 chapter leaders has been offered freely to every community. Since its inception, Impact100 chapters have given away nearly $80 million to worthy nonprofits and more than 15,000 women have joined the movement.
The Impact100 Model’s powerful process is more attractive than ever to women seeking to step into a leadership role to help solve humanity’s most pressing problems. The 100% volunteer-led Model is grounded in the belief of an efficient, transformational, and sustainable collaborative giving process. Although this is a unique and admirable badge of honor for Impact100 chapters everywhere, it presents a clear and present danger to the long-term survival of this powerful movement. The data is clear; most solely volunteer-driven initiatives fail. They burn fast and bright; and then, slowly, they burn out. They lack the ongoing support, infrastructure, tools, systems, training, and leadership development needed to sustain the work of the organization.
For almost 20 years, Impact100 has thrived despite the odds stacked against this all-volunteer movement. Part of the success must be credited to the tenacity of the women leading Impact100 chapters and certainly part of the credit rests in the power of the Impact100 Model itself. The other critical success factor is the work of the Founder and Impact100 Global Council. Led by Steele, Impact100 Global Council serves as the backbone to the movement, providing much-needed infrastructure, systems, resources, tools, leadership development, and coaching to Impact100 chapters everywhere. Today, the movement continues to accelerate with powerful momentum.
Impact100 chapters and leaders need additional support as the movement grows and communities face increasing need. At a time of unprecedented problems facing humanity, we need more philanthropy and philanthropists to help solve them. The time has come to scale and sustain the Impact100 Model by systematically supporting and developing existing Impact100 Chapters while expanding to new locations; equipping new armies of female social entrepreneurs who will lead and invest in social change in their communities. Impact100 Global Council is now uniquely positioned to unify women and amplify change with a bold vision to reach $1 billion of Impact by 2035.