A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Impact 100 strengthens women’s philanthropic muscle, transforms communities through giving

For 15 years, Impact 100, a regional women’s philanthropy-based nonprofit organization, has awarded more than 29 grants to area non-profits, resulting in more than $3.65 million invested throughout the region.

Last month, the organization announced its seven 2016 grant recipient finalists, which included three Northern Kentucky nonprofits: The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, proposing the Creative Commons project; Women’s Crisis Center, proposing Green Dot Violence Prevention; and Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission (NKCAC), proposing the Lincoln Grant Scholar House (LGSH) project.

In September, four of the seven recipient finalists will emerge as Impact 100 grant recipients, each receiving $101,500.

Pooling powerful resources
Impact 100’s story began in Cincinnati, in 2001. Its founder, Wendy Steele, set out to promote philanthropy among women. The idea was that if 100 women would each donate $1,000, they would have $100,000 to give to the community — substantive dollars that could make a difference. As is often the case with good ideas, they grow.

Today, while Impact 100 remains committed to improving Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, by collectively funding significant grants to charitable initiatives, the Impact 100 model has spread to almost 20 cities in the U.S. and three globally.

Grant winners 2016

Grant winners 2016

Members donate $500 or $1000, and 100 percent of the funds go into a nonprofit grant. The women come from diverse career choices, ranging from business owners tor retirees, and range in age from early 20s to 80s. retirees. Locally, Impact 100 members hail from 30 different zip codes throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and the organization is welcoming new members.

“We can do so much with our collective giving, but also our collective strengths in meeting, sharing and learning from other women, which is what continues to help us grow and thrive into our 15th year,” says Clare Ziatic Blankemeyer, nonprofit coordinator with Impact 100.

The organization focuses its support on key areas that include culture, health and wellness; education; education, family and environment; and preservation and recreation.

“I invest my philanthropic contributions within Impact 100 because I see firsthand the great work community agencies can leverage with large, transformational grants,” says Blankemeyer. “I cannot write a check for $100,000 personally, but we can do it together.”

Due diligence with dollars
As the process works, each year nonprofits apply for grants, submitting proposals that are reviewed by the Impact 100 volunteers, and once a year the Impact members gather to review proposals, and begin a thoughtful and thorough vetting process.

“The Impact 100 organization continues to execute incredible due diligence in ensuring collective dollars make a direct impact on the community,” says Blankemeyer.

The grant review process begins in October of each year, says Blankemeyer, when non-profits are invited to attend information sessions to learn about Impact 100’s grant process. By December, nonprofit letters of intent requests for program projects of $100,000 or more, in at least one of the Impact 100’s focus areas, are requests. The following January, Impact 100 announces its total membership dollars that are available and begins reviewing the letter of intent requests. Led by an experienced board member, the women weigh the merits of each request and the transformational and sustainable impact the grant would have on the request.

In March, the strongest applicants move forward to submit a more-detailed request called the Common Grant Application. Once resubmitted, Blankemeyer says Focus Area Committees reconvene to evaluate the longer applications and offer in-person site visits to the most compelling requests, going through a ‘deep-dive’ of the applicant’s financial health through Impact 100’s Community Investment Review Committee (CIRC). Once CIRC and site visits are finalized, the Focus Area Committees put forth one to two request per focus area as grant finalists, which are announced in June.

In 2016, Impact 100 will invest more than $400,000 in the community.

Transformative giving
Kurt Reiber, president and CEO of Freestore Foodbank (FSFB) in Cincinnati, a recipient of Impact 100 grants, says the year-long process allowed his team to take a critical look at their processes and procedures to insure that they were operating as effectively as possible while feeding roughly 300,000 in the tri-state who deal with hunger on a daily basis.

“The women of Impact 100 really served as our outside consultants during this process and helped to strengthen and shape our programs for the future,” says Reiber.

Reiber says FSFB has received two Impact 100 grants which have been used to expand FSFB’s Power Pack program, which is the weekend feeding program for kids during the school years, as well as their it’s new Healthy Harvest Mobile Market, which will bring fresh produce to ten “food deserts” within the I-275 loop.

“Impact 100 made a difference with our Power Pack Program by helping to expand that program so that we are now in over 100 tri-state schools and delivering over 5,000 Power Packs a week to kids who would head home over the weekend to empty cupboards,” says Reiber. “Now they come back to school Monday morning, ready to learn because they had a Power Pack to sustain then over the weekend.”

Reiber says the recent grant they received for the Healthy Harvest Mobile Market will allow families to gain access to a healthier lifestyle through better nutrition.

Lasting relationships
The relationship between Impact 100 and the grant recipients does not end after the annual award ceremony. Blankemeyer says that once the grants are awarded, Impact 100 and the recipient enter into a contractual relationship and pay out the funds over one to three years. They are followed closely by a group of volunteers from the organization and there are benchmarks that are measured to watch through the transformational process.

Blankemeyer says the partnership with the nonprofit grant recipients is her favorite part of the process.

“We are able to glean a lot of information regarding our past grant recipients and their community impact through these interim reports, which are shared with membership through monthly newsletters,” says Blankemeyer.

Grant agreements include ideal benchmarks, outcomes and funding payout,” she says. Part of the Common Grant Application requests a budget that opts for a one to three-year payout plan with Impact 100 funds through installment payments.

Scheduled interim reports quantify and qualify the progress of the nonprofit-initiated program expansion or project, which are required before installment payments are made.

“The bottom line is that because of the grants that Freestore Foodbank received from Impact 100, there are less families and children who are negatively impacted by hunger and food insecurity,” says Reiber. “We have also become a more disciplined and effective company as a result of going through the Impact 100 grant application process, where 94 percent of all the resources that we receive go directly to serving our neighbors in need.”

In addition to the three Northern Kentucky grant finalists, the seven Impact 100 2016 grant finalists are: St. Francis Seraph Ministries and Center for Respite Care, The Dinner Club and Kitchenette; Cincinnati Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship, Project Mustang; Chatfield College, Central Parkway Park Renovation; Greater Cincinnati Construction Foundation, Constructing a Pathway Out of Poverty.

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  1. Impact100 has more than three other “sister” organisations globally – in Australia alone, we now have Impact100 Melbourne, Impact100 Sydney, Impact100 Western Australia, Impact100 Fremantle and Impact100 South Australia. Impact100 has also inspired the Melbourne Women’s Fund, and Women & Change in Brisbane. All of these have sprung up in the last five years. We thank Wendy Steele for her amazing model which is helping us build and contribute to our communities, and grow a culture of philanthropy.

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