‘Impact 100’ determined to win the numbers game

From back row, Connie Dominianni, Judy Peschio, Mary Ellen McCarthy, Pilar Turner, Kris Rohr. Front, June Fitzgerald, Barbara DiMarzo, Brenda Lloyd and MaryAnn Miskel [Photo: Kaila Jones]

When Indian River Impact 100 hosted its annual meeting on Zoom last April – during which its members voted to award five $100,000 transformational grants to area nonprofits – the hope was that life would have returned to normal by now. It has not.

Not only are many of the local nonprofits faced with growing numbers of people in need of their services; the fundraisers they rely on to subsist were curtailed in the spring, and are unlikely to resume any time soon.

Impact 100, a nonprofit itself, has also been affected. Their annual Fall Brunch, meant to encourage continued support and entice new members into the fold, cannot go on as previously planned. And yet, keeping the membership momentum increasingly robust is more critical than ever.

“It is a huge challenge because without our membership we don’t have the money to give away,” said board member and marketing chair Kris Rohr. “So, it’s really important to us to keep the numbers up. Obviously, the best thing is when you can get people together and we can share our mission and triumphs.”

Current plans call for a Virtual Brunch on Nov. 18 featuring guest speaker Debbie Ritchie, a founder of the Pensacola chapter, who will speak about the power of team philanthropy.

The Impact 100 model is based on each woman contributing $1,000 (annual dues). Funds are pooled and members vote to select the nonprofits that become that year’s Community Partners as recipients of $100,000 grants.

The other finalists receive equal shares of any remaining funds. Over the past 12 years, Indian River Impact 100 members have collectively contributed $4,659,000 to local nonprofit organizations.

Simply put, increased membership equals increased grant potential.

“There are a lot of funders that do team philanthropy, but the reason that we are different is that our members actually choose who receives a grant,” said board president Gladys LaForge. “Our process is pretty unique. We do everything in our power to make sure every organization that applies has an opportunity to succeed.”

At last week’s Nonprofit Information Session, 45 nonprofit representatives attended a virtual meeting led by grants chair Mary Blair, where they received guidance on the application process, which is now entirely online.

“We’ve also refined the application itself to make it easier for the nonprofits to answer,” said Rohr. “We’re still very diligent in terms of what we want from them, but we’ve taken great pains to make it easier.”

Potential applicants also heard from 2020 grant recipient Stacey Watson-Mesley, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, who shared her own experiences.

Additionally, they learned about the opportunity to meet with the Impact Visioning Team, for assistance formulating and fleshing out their ideas. Mary Ellen McCarthy, who heads that team, said they have already met with 26 different organizations since January and are available to meet with others.

Proposals will now fall under five focus areas. Arts and Culture has been established as a stand-alone this year, joining Children and Families, Education, Environment, and Health and Wellness.

“Our process is all about making every applicant successful,” stressed LaForge. “One thing I learned from some of our Community Partners is that by applying for one of our grants, even though it’s tough and our criteria are more stringent than some other funders, they become a better organization.”

She explained that the process can be especially helpful to smaller and/or fledgling nonprofits to help them begin thinking “bigger and better. I think that’s what our process helps them to do.”

This year will hold its challenges, but the ladies are forging ahead with ways to keep both their membership and the nonprofit community engaged.

“We’ve planned out to the end of the year and then we’re going to evaluate,” said LaForge. “This group does not lack for creativity; we’ll come up with a way.”

For more information about membership or the grant process (applications are due by Nov. 11), visit Impact100ir.com.

Photos by: Kaila Jones
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