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Wanted: 25 philanthropic women
BY LISA ZAHNER - COLUMNIST (Week of January 15, 2009)

With only a couple of weeks to go, another two dozen philanthropic- minded women are needed to complete the fledgling Indian River Impact 100 group – a new giving circle of 100 women who in April plan to pick a local nonprofit organization to receive a lump-sum payment of $100,000 to fund a new project that will benefit our community.

So far, 75 women have signed on to contribute $1,000 each to join the group, with the group hoping to reach the 100 mark by Feb. 2. The 100 members will then meet on April 29th and vote on a list of projects, with the charity garnering the most votes from the participants walking away with the entire $100,000.

Local nonprofits that will apply for the grant in March are being told that the money has to be spent on a new project that will make a fundamental change in the way the organization serves the community, and cannot be used for overhead, staff for existing programs, or endowment purposes.

“The organizations will have to think out of the box and dream big as to what could be done with that much money,” said Sue Tompkins, a member of the fivewoman Impact 100 Leadership Team.

Indian River Impact 100 gives women the chance to be part of an exclusive, dynamic organization without joining another committee or committing to endless meetings or duties.

“A lot of women very involved in the community like the idea that there will be one vote only and only one meeting,” added Jennifer Malone, also part of the group’s Leadership Team. “Other women are excited about having the opportunity both to vote and to volunteer.”

None of the 100 participants will have more influence on the outcome than any others.

Unlike most organizations, the Indian River Impact 100 is committed to giving out 100 percent of each woman’s $1,000 membership contribution as a grant. Proposals are being solicited from five focus areas — arts and culture; education; environment, recreation and preservation; family; and health and wellness.

Though Indian River Impact 100 has just burst on the local scene, the idea has been germinating here for nearly seven years.

“In 2001, five local nonprofits started a discussion about women and philanthropy,” said Kerry Bartlett, executive director of the Indian River Community Foundation, which is acting as fiscal agent for the group. “It became a collaborative effort to inspire, to educate and to encourage women to affect change through philanthropy.”

A steering committee of 16 influential local women researched the issue, held meetings, attended focus groups and listened to speakers. Efforts lost some steam after hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, but the group reconvened and decided in earnest to finally take the plunge this fall.

“In November 2008, Indian River Impact 100 was born,” Bartlett said.

Indian River Impact 100 was modeled after a 5-year-old organization called Impact 100 Pensacola Bay Area. Since its inception, Impact 100 Pensacola Bay area has awarded more than $1.8 million in grants. The panhandle-based group began with 233 members and now boasts 563 members, with 2008 grants totaling $563,000.

The local group met with Debbie Ritchie, founder of Impact 100 in Pensacola, who told them she had been inspired by a story on an Impact 100 giving circle in Cincinnati that was featured in People magazine.

“It all started with one woman’s desire to create change, to create something larger than herself,” Bartlett said. “It is about seeking solutions that are going to significantly and strategically impact this community within the areas of interest.”

Not seeing the need to reinvent the wheel, the local steering committee got to work planning how to undertake a similar effort in Indian River County. The steering committee, which includes Lenora Ritchie of the McCabe Foundation, Jane Coyle, Toni Hamner, Judy Whitaker and Sandy Rolf, brought a great deal of expertise to the table.

“These are all very capable women who have been involved in this community for some time, this is nothing new for them,” said Nancy Lynch, a member of the Leadership Team. “We’ve been moving in a very short period of time to get this off the ground.”

Bartlett explained that women tend to give money differently than men, that they take a more holistic approach.

“While men like to go it alone and take on very individual charitable projects and make individual contributions,” Bartlett said, “women have a tendency to do more effective philanthropy through a team approach.”

Malone said much of the recruiting up to this point has been through the Leadership Committee and the Steering Committee. “We invited women to coffees and information sessions, we had a couple of coffees at Quail Valley and a big information session at Costa de Este,” she said. “Other than that, it’s been through word of mouth.”

The goal of Indian River Impact 100, after this inaugural season, is to continue to grow the membership so large grants can be awarded in each of the five focus areas. Another goal is to develop an informative Web site similar to the Impact 100 group in Pensacola. That site, which helps explain the Impact 100 concept further, is

Particulars on the grant application process are contained in a grant application packet, which explains the process and restrictions. To apply, organizations must submit a letter of intent on the Impact 100 form by Feb. 2 and then a full grant application by March 2. Members of the Grants Committee will conduct site visits throughout March and the beginning of April to determine the merit of the proposals.

Organizations seeking more information about the grant-making process should e-mail to request an application. Women wishing to join Indian River Impact 100 can email the Leadership Team at or call Sherry Brown, membership coordinator, at 564-8718.

The deadline to join to be involved in this year’s grant-making process is Feb. 2. Donations should be sent to the Indian River Community Foundation/Impact 100, P.O. Box 643968, Vero Beach, FL 32964. The Community Foundation will acknowledge donations and provide documentation for tax purposes.