Impact100 proves the power in numbers
By SUZIE RODRIGUEZ / Sonoma Valley Correspondent
One sunny day in June 2009, veteran fund-raisers Annette Lomont and Christine Dohrmann were walking Dohrmann’s white lab Grace on the Sonoma Bike Path.
As they strolled, Lomont mentioned an organization her niece had co-founded called Impact100 Philadelphia. With 100 female members contributing $1,000 each, they raised $100,000 for charitable causes and decided as a group how to spend it.
“One woman, one vote,” Lomont said. “It’s very democratic and very powerful, because you end up with the kind of money that can really have an impact.”
Dohrmann stopped walking and asked, “What do you think of us starting an Impact100 here in Sonoma?”
And that’s exactly what they did.
At first the duo contacted friends, meeting many of them at the Sunflower Caffé for lunch or coffee or a glass of wine, and all seemed to like the idea. In August they advertised an open meeting, inviting all women who wanted to learn about a new way to make a difference in the community. More than 50 showed up, and most became members.
By late December they had more than 100 members, and Impact100 Sonoma was on its way. It’s one of 14 Impact100s in the U.S., each of which operates independently but follows the same simple guidelines.
But why confine it to women?
“Women make things happen,” said Constance Grizzell, vice president of grants and greater impact for the Sonoma group. “Let’s face it: women are the movers and shakers in any community.”
Added Lomont, “Women do want to make a difference, and they have that spirit of helping and giving back.”
Women of all kinds belong, not just the wealthy, said Impact100 Sonoma’s President B.J. Bischoff. “Some are on fixed incomes, paying their $1,000 in monthly segments. Others are younger and working; some are independent entrepreneurs.
“It’s not the usual set of philanthropists in the area that everyone knows,” she said. “It’s a new injection of philanthropic dollars into Sonoma Valley, which is very exciting.”
Women can join at any time but must be a member in January to vote on the year’s grant requests.
With the exception of a 10-hour-a-week administrative assistant, Impact100 Sonoma has no hired staff. There’s no office, either. Meetings are held at supporting organizations such as the Hannah Boys Center, St. Leo’s Catholic Church, and the Sonoma Valley Library.
Every penny of the members’ $1,000 donation goes to the Impact Grant, with operational and administrative expenses funded by gifts and sponsorships from individuals, businesses, family and private foundations.
Early each year, tax-exempt groups from Kenwood through Schellville that serve local residents and spend funds within Sonoma Valley begin the grant submission process. Those chosen are announced at the annual meeting in June.
In 2010, the group’s first $100,000 Impact Grant went to the Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley for its College Bound program. An extra $10,000 was divided between the finalists: WillMar Center for Family Grief & Healing, Art Museum of Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Valley Ecology Center and Social Advocates for Youth.
By 2011, Impact100 had 157 members who chose Teen Services as the $100,000 recipient. The remaining $57,000 was divided among F.I.S.H. ($15,000), Sebastiani Theatre ($3,500), Sonoma Ecology Center ($7,000), Sonoma Valley Community Health Center ($9,000), Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance ($75,000), and the Women’s Initiative for Self Employment ($15,000).
With 195 members this year, Impact100 has $195,000 to bestow. Aside from the $100,000 Impact Grant, smaller amounts will be given to the runners up and as Community Grants.
Impact finalists were the Sonoma Community Center for its Sonoma Serves Volunteer Center, Sonoma Mentoring Alliance for Project IMPACT! and La Luz for its Strengthening Families and Our Community program. (A list of the winners, announced after this article was published, can be found at the end of this article.)
At a seminar held shortly before the annual meeting, Impact100 members came together to hear member-researched presentations about the finalists.
“I must admit, I did have a wonderful feeling of satisfaction,” said Lomont, one of the two women who started it all. “I stood and watched all of these very bright, dedicated, engaged women presenting on behalf of their clients.
“I realized that we will have awarded nearly half a million dollars in three years. It was a wonderful moment. It was worth it all.”
If you’d like to join Impact100 or learn more about applying for a grant, visit impact100sonoma.
Winners of the 2012 Impact and Community Grants:
The Impact100 Sonoma $100,000 Grant was awarded to La Luz to fund its Fortaleciendo las Familias y Nuestra Comunidad (Strengthening Families and our Community).
- 10,000 Degrees, in collaboration with the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance and the Sonoma Valley Education Fund, will receive $15,000 to explore a collaborative partnership that would create a college-going culture from elementary through 12th grade in Sonoma Valley.
- California Parenting Institute will receive $15,000 to provide community-based parent education for high-risk families, including classes and home visits.
- Friends in Sonoma Helping (F.I.S.H.) will receive $15,000 to enable completion of capital projects begun last year to improve their facility.
- Literary Arts Guild-Bookmobile of Sonoma will receive $3,250 for book supplies to support the Bookmobile at local organizations throughout the valley.
- Sonoma Overnight Support(S.O.S.) will receive $11,000 to improve their homeless shelter.
- Willmar Family Grief & Healing Center will receive $9,000 in funds to create “on-the-go” grief counseling kits.