By Joy Allen
Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012 12:12 AM CST
Joy Allen is the president of Impact 100.
What can one person do to make a community better? That’s a question many of us ask ourselves as each new year rolls around and we renew our energy and enthusiasm to pitch in and do our part to enrich our lives and the lives of our children.
That question can be overwhelming to some — so overwhelming they decide to do nothing at all because, after all, others are covering the bases pretty well right now and what little extra they might add could not possibly be significant in the long run. Could it? Besides, it’s a whole lot easier just to let everyone know what WE WOULD HAVE DONE if we had been in the driver’s seat on that project.
About seven years ago, a group of women in our area were intrigued by what a small group of women in Cincinnati had accomplished for their city. These Owensboro women were troubled by the seeming lack of strong female leadership on the horizon here and decided to band together to see if they could change that trend while making a difference in our community. It wasn’t particularly a feminist statement. They just wanted to encourage more women to become involved, gain confidence and let their unique perspective add to the quality of leadership available in Owensboro. It was, and is, a perspective not represented well, yet one well worth hearing.
On their own, if they each contributed $1,000 to an organization of their choice, it would take care of some small items, but what if 100 women contributed $1,000? Then, they believed they could start to address some of the larger needs so evident in our community.
In a nutshell, that was how Impact 100 started. A few women dedicating their personal time to see if together they could make a difference.
Their goal the first year was to find 100 women to donate $1,000 each and then discover a project in this community needing their help. That first year the response was beyond what they had even hoped for. They were able to give their first grant of $150,000 to Grandma’s Corner, a crisis child care provider. From that year to this, they have been able annually to award two grants of more than $100,000 each to important projects in Owensboro.
The application process to receive funding from this organization is worth noting here. The first step of the process in submitting a grant application is attendance at a seminar put on by a well-known professional in the field who teaches applicants how to submit successful applications — to Impact 100 or any other group. The self-examination each group goes through to determine if they are ready to receive and administer funds of this magnitude is of tremendous value to the community in and of itself.
When applications are submitted, they are not simply discussed at a meeting and winnowed down arbitrarily. The applications are grouped by topic and focus groups of interested Impact 100 members meet with representatives of each prospective grantee organization to ask questions that range from financial to philosophical.
After rigorous examination, equal to or exceeding that you’d expect from a financial institution when submitting a loan application, the focus groups decide which applicant is chosen to move on to the semi-finalist stage.
In an ideal year, there will be a representative grant applicant from each of five areas: culture, education, environment/preservation and recreation, family and health and wellness. If, however, the focus group feels there are no qualified applicants from their area, no applicant is put forth.
When the semi-finalists are determined, site visits are arranged so every member of Impact 100 has the opportunity to make an on-site visit to see the proposed project first-hand, meet the people involved and determine for herself whether or not her money would be well-served by a donation to their cause.
The final step of the almost year long process is the annual gathering of the membership. Each of the semi-finalists gives a short synopsis of their grant proposal and tells members why they should select their group as the finalist for this year’s money. This is not your standard “annual dinner.” Hearing the exciting ideas about what can happen in your community or the difference you can make in someone’s life … how you can be a part of it … and most of all, knowing that at least one of these projects is most definitely going forward the very next day … well, it is very emotional for everyone involved.
You can be a member of Impact 100 without ever serving on a focus group, taking a leadership role, making a site visit, or even attending the annual meeting. You can simply donate $1,000 and yet, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing the applicant organizations have been well researched and your money is going to fill a true need in our community. You can be as involved or as little involved as you want, and yet, you can make a difference.
There are 13 similar Impact groups operating in the United States today: Austin, Texas, Baldwin County, Ala., Chicago, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Okla., Pensacola, Fla., Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., San Antonio, Texas, Sonoma, Calif., St. Louis, Vero Beach, Fla., AND Owensboro. Yes, we’re the smallest city who’s been able to organize this amazing project and carry it forward to help our community.
Impact 100 is a women’s organization, but we do have some men who have opted to join as nonvoting “friends,” because they believe in what their friends, colleagues and wives are doing for Owensboro, and they want to encourage and help sustain this collective energy for change.
Are you still questioning what one person can do?
As of this date, Impact 100 has donated $1.24 million to projects in this area.
This year, why don’t you consider being a part of the excitement?
Please contact our 2012 membership chair, Jean Yewell, (270) 222-0804 or me, Joy Allen (270) 929-7896 or just visit our website at www.impact100owensboro.org.
Pick up the phone …. you can BE the difference.