by Paula M. Riley

As part of the grant application process, committee members from Impact100 Philadelphia, a local giving circle, visit an applicant site to better understand the non-profit organization applying for one of the grants the all-women group distributes. With 242 members, Impact100 will distribute $242,000 in grants this year. Each member donates $1,000.

There is strength in numbers.  That’s what local women who have joined Impact100 Philadelphia are discovering. They have found that by pooling their philanthropic efforts, they can make a huge impact on nonprofits in the Philadelphia region.

Impact100 Philadelphia is an all-woman giving circle whose concept is simple. Every member commits $1,000 annually, which is pooled together and fully distributed in the form of grants to area nonprofits.

Last fall, local Impact100 members hosted an event to introduce women from Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy to the organization. Over cocktails in a Chestnut Hill home, members shared experiences and explained how the organization works. By the end of the night, Impact100 had a dozen women join as new members. This brought the four-year-old organization up to 242 members, meaning $242,000 will be distributed to five nonprofits this year.

“It is so powerful to make a transformative impact on these organizations,” said Anne Sudduth, a Chestnut Hill resident and host of the evening. “Our grant recipients are often lesser-known, smaller nonprofits that are overlooked in other grant awards but are doing wonderful work.”

Sudduth joined the group when she moved to Philadelphia a few years ago from New England. She was seeking to get involved in the nonprofit world but didn’t want to just join a board.

“I really wanted to get a sense of what was going on in Philadelphia,” she said.

Impact100 offered her that opportunity. She quickly became a member and joined the board last summer.

Like Sudduth, Impact100 member Caroline Estey King gives to annual fund drives at her children’s school and her favorite organizations in Philly. What appealed to King about Impact100 was her ability to be part of a large-sized grant. As a fundraising consultant, she understands the value of such a grant

“The impact of $100,000 can make or break a non-profit,” she said. ”I feel like my gift can make a significant shift in that nonprofit.”

Last year, an Impact100 project grant ($100,000) was awarded to West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC). This contributed to the organization’s effort to reopen libraries in five public schools that had been closed due to budget cuts.

One of the four operating grants ($20,000) was given to Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (NPIHN). This organization provides emergency housing, transitional housing and support service for area homeless. Churches host small groups of homeless individuals providing meals, shelter and companionship for brief stay.

Many local congregations including St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, St. Raymond’s Catholic Church and Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia serve as host congregations.

Operating grants were also awarded to Urban Tree Connection, Community Arts Center and Concern for Health Options: Information, Care and Education (CHOICE).

Learning about the area’s nonprofit organizations is one of the many benefits of participating in Impact100. Four committees representing different focus areas (Education, Health and Wellness, Arts and Culture, Family and Environment) handle the grant application process, which includes reviewing grant proposals and site visits to the most promising applicants.

Each committee selects one organization that is invited to make a presentation at the group’s annual meeting in June when all of the Impact100 members vote to determine which organization will receive the $100,000 project grant.

With its increased membership size, Impact100 will, for the first time this year, award two $100,000 project grants. The remaining $42,000 will be distributed in operating grants to the other three finalists.

“We are interested in what is happening [at area nonprofits] and want to be part of solving problems,” Sudduth said. “Through Impact100 we [members] learn about community issues and challenges that might not otherwise be a focus in our lives.”

Although King is extremely knowledgeable about area nonprofits, Impact100 introduces her to many others.

“It would be a fulltime job to assess the number of places that may interest you – giving like this is a matter of convenience,” she said. “Impact 100 offers a nice safe model that works.”

Members have difference experiences and level of involvement. There is no expectation that members serve on any committees or attend meetings. Votes on the grants can be done by absentee ballot. What the majority seem to enjoy is the ability to make a large difference.