â€‹When women pool their resources, they can create real change. That is the idea behind Impact100, a global organization that engages local businesswomen in philanthropy through collective giving. This year, Impact100 Westchester, one of the organization’s 45 US chapters, is set to surpass $1 million in transformational grants awarded to organizations that support underserved local communities.
Scarsdale resident Sharon Salomy Douglas founded Impact100 Westchester in 2014 after witnessing the Philadelphia chapter in action. The all-volunteer organization originally consisted of 132 members, a number that steadily grew each year and is currently at 320. Grant money comes entirely from membership dues—$1,000 per year for the grant fund, plus $100 to cover administrative costs—so a larger membership means greater opportunity to make a difference.
Some members simply send their membership dues and attend an annual meeting, but many take active, year-round roles in the organization’s various administrative committees and outreach efforts. Last year, over half the membership participated in the rigorous grant-application review process. Selected finalists will present their projects to the entire membership at the annual meeting in spring, at which time every member will vote to determine the winners. Between 2014 and 2017, Impact100 Westchester awarded grants to 19 local organizations aimed at tackling a variety of issues, including children’s mental health, education access, and support for survivors of abuse.
“Women’s collective giving is a growing model around the world. There is tremendous need in Westchester County. [Though the county has many] areas of extreme wealth, 10% of the residents live in poverty. It is difficult for one person to make a significant difference in the community, but when women pool funds, we can achieve transformational results and change lives,” says Michelle Coleman, Co-President of Impact100 Westchester.
Impact100 gives women an opportunity to recognize and respond to the needs of their neighbors. The Westchester chapter plans to continue expanding its membership and grant resources in order to increase its support for nonprofits and individuals in need.
In some cases, Impact100 grants catalyze further support for their beneficiaries. For example, Pace University chose to expand its support for the Pace Women’s Justice Center after Impact100 helped fund construction for their new walk-in legal clinic, allowing them to serve almost 500 more people each year. “The Impact100 grant started the ball rolling and we are growing and expanding our services,” says the Women’s Justice Center’s Executive Director, Cindy Kanusher. “We are so grateful.”
A team from Groundwork Hudson Valley dreamed of converting the Yonkers Greenway into a green, revitalized community space. After using their Impact100 grant to build a community playground next to the Greenway, the organization received further support that allowed them to pursue an ambitious redevelopment of the abandoned railway line. According to Groundwork Hudson Valley’s Executive Director Brigitte Griswold, “[Impact100’s] early support paved the way to leverage other transformative gifts to design and construct the Greenway. This is the kind of bold, game-changing philanthropy we need now more than ever in our community.”