A group of women making a difference
By Gera Vaz
It began in such a simple way. Two women, Christine Dohrmann and Annette Lomont, were taking a walk and chatting about the philanthropic needs of Sonoma Valley. Their idea was to form a women’s giving circle. They only needed at least 100 women, each donating $1,000, and together they could give a grant of $100,000 to a local nonprofit. There were similar organizations across the U.S. Why not Sonoma?
Today, only six years later, Impact100 Sonoma is much more than just a “crazy idea.” Annual membership easily exceeds 200 women, and the organization has awarded more than one million dollars in grants to nonprofits serving Sonoma Valley.
There are 19 Impact100s in the U.S. and three in Australia. All of the organizations emphasize the power of collective decision making and collective philanthropy. Impact100 Sonoma, however, is unique. Until this year, it was the only Impact100 in California; it serves a much smaller community than most of the other Impacts; and it has modified the national model by providing both an annual $100,000 Impact Grant, as well as smaller Community Grants ranging in size from $2,500 to $15,000.
Since its inception in 2009, Impact100 Sonoma has awarded 54 grants totaling $1,192,000 to 30 different nonprofit organizations. The diversity of the grants awarded reveals the impact on the entire community. Funded projects have focused on educating parents, access to the arts, strengthening families, providing career skills, preparing meals, supporting those with disabilities, trail restoration, and caring for others. Impact100 has supported projects as diverse as gang prevention, canine therapy teams, health and environmental issues, nutrition, increasing volunteerism, literacy, and end-of-life care.
The $100,000 Impact Grants have been awarded to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley for their College Bound Program (2010), Sonoma Valley Teen Services in support of their Skills for Life Program (2011), La Luz Center for their project Strengthening Families & the Community (2012), Sonoma Valley Education Foundation in support of Smart Start: Preschool for All in Sonoma Valley (2013), Redwood Empire Food Bank supporting Diabetes Wellness Project of Sonoma Valley (2014), and On The Move to support Parent University (2015).
As an organization, Impact100 Sonoma refuses to be satisfied with what it has achieved. Each year, the Board interacts with its members and the nonprofits it serves in order to discuss organizational effectiveness from the perspective of both the donor and the grant-recipient – what is working, what should be tweaked, what else should be considered.
The mission of Impact100 includes “increasing participation among women in local philanthropy” and encouraging their involvement with local nonprofits. Each year, many Impact100 members volunteer their time to serve on one of several grant committees. This involves the evaluation and vetting of full proposals and participating in site visits to meet personally with the staff and board members of each of the nonprofits under consideration. But this more intensive commitment is not required. Many members, busy with jobs and family, choose to donate their $1,000 and vote on the awards, recognizing that there is an effective vetting process in place.
Individually, many Impact100 members give their personal time and energies to specific nonprofits in which they are most interested. They often learn about project needs either through involvement in the proposal review process or through postings on the Impact100 website and in monthly newsletters. In a 2012 poll of the Impact100 membership, 62 percent of responding members said they had increased their participation and philanthropy with Sonoma nonprofits as a result of their membership in Impact100, and that number continues to rise.
The geographic area supported by Impact100 Sonoma funds is Kenwood to Schellville. The need in the valley is great, and the group is always seeking women who would like to be part of this vital and growing force in the Valley. The concept is simple: One woman + one $1,000 gift + one vote. All membership funds go to nonprofit organizations.
Want to consider joining? Please visit our website at impact100sonoma.org.
Impact100 Sonoma Membership Chair Gera Vaz is a Kenwood resident and would welcome calls from prospective members. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.