Members and potential members of Impact 100 of Indian River County were very pleased to be able to gather once again at the Oak Harbor Club for their first Kickoff Brunch in three years.
“We are starting our 15th year of Impact 100 in Indian River County,” said current president Mary Ellen McCarthy, adding that to mark the occasion, they had invited a panel of some of the founding members to speak about the history of this local chapter.
The presenting sponsor was the Hill Group, and its president, Chris Hill, told the group, “It is through your actions that lives are forever changed, the community is strengthened, and new and higher standards are set.”
“As an active member of this organization, I know firsthand how much we can get done when we come together for one cause,” said Michele Murrell, external and government affairs manager for Florida Power & Light, the other major sponsor.
McCarthy explained that the local Impact 100 grew out of a group called Women and Philanthropy, started by the late Ellie McCabe, who believed that there was an untapped potential for women in the community to have a philanthropic impact.
After reading an article about the first Impact 100 which began in Cincinnati, Ohio, they decided to form one here.
“What started as ‘let’s get a few friends together’ turned into a tsunami of wonderful, philanthropically inclined women that we continue to grow,” said McCarthy, before introducing Sherry Brown, Jane Coyle, Nancy Lynch, Sandy Rolf and Sue Tompkins, and leading a Q&A discussion about the organization.
Tompkins said the idea particularly resonated after hearing from guest speaker Tracy Gary, the Pillsbury heiress, who spoke about how to give money away in ways that are transformational, impactful and strategic.
Coyle said recruitment efforts have always been successful because of the concept of team philanthropy. Women who could not afford to give away $100,000 individually, could transform the community by joining together.
The Impact 100 model has women donating $1,100 ($100 funds administrative costs), with each woman collectively voting to provide $100,000 high-impact grants to local charities.
The initial group recruited members by hosting small gatherings of people in their neighborhoods to promote the idea, which McCarthy said they have begun doing once again.
“We were unique of all the other Impacts in that we had no problem whatsoever attracting members,” said Coyle.
That first year, 2009, exceeded expectations with the recruitment of 205 members. Membership has been 400 women or more since 2012.
Brown said Impact was, and remains, unique in several ways. Its members, all women, award $100,000 grants, each member has a say in determining who will receive the grants, and the number of grants awarded is determined by the number of members.
“The idea of getting 100 women together to give $1,000 each was a concept that had never been heard of before. And as Sherry says, $100,000 in those days was a huge amount of money,” said Lynch. “It was phenomenally exciting.”
“It’s all part of what we’re doing here in the community to help the nonprofits,” said Rolf.
And help them they have. Impact has awarded more than $5.5 million in transformational grants and merit awards since 2009.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Feb. 25, Impact 100 is hosting a free Share to Care nonprofit community fair at Riverside Park to celebrate 15 years of Impact. Each of the nonprofits who has received a grant or merit award will have tents to promote their missions.
For more information or to become a member (Feb. 28 deadline), visit
Photos by Joshua Kodis