Image via Neighborhood Bike Works website
On Monday night, Impact100Philadelphia, the all-women collective giving circle, awarded three $100,000 project grants to nonprofits ArtWell, Neighborhood Bike Works, and Friends of Farmworkers. The runners-up, HIAS Pennsylvania and Women’s Therapy Center, each received $14,000 in general operating support.
The total sum awarded at the group’s annual meeting — $328,000 — was the largest to date and reflects each member’s $1,000 contribution.
Selected from an applicant field of 154 and thoroughly vetted by Impact100, the five nonprofit finalists made heartfelt presentations to the membership. Afterward, the more than three hundred women in attendance voted on the spot for their top choices.
“Help us extend our reach and restructure our organization to take our programs from the margins to the mainstream,” said Erin DeCou, the executive director of Neighborhood Bike Works, as she addressed the crowd.
Bike Works was ultimately awarded a grant to support a new bike outreach program in West and Southwest Philadelphia that will introduce 100 more low-income kids to cycling and connect them to local greenways, such as Bartram’s Garden and Cobbs Creek Park. It will also move its offices from a cramped church basement to an accessible central space. Bike Works had applied three years in a row before being tapped as a finalist.
“The process is more formidable than most,” said DeCou, whose annual budget hovers around a half a million dollars. After Bike Works did some internal refocusing, “It became easier to write an effective proposal,” she said.
No Wrong Choice
Since its founding in 2008, Impact100 has awarded more than $1.2 million to 24 nonprofits. It targets lesser known organizations with budgets under $5 million. Potential grantees are clustered into five focus areas and narrowed down after careful evaluation and a site visit.
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“We want to help catapult these smaller nonprofits to the next stage of their life-cycle, and our funding is targeted toward that,” said Jacquie Stern, a president of Impact100.
Stern and her co-president, Sue Dubow, also announced a new fellowship program that will sponsor a handful of young women interested in philanthropy who might not have the means to chip in $1,000. The application process will open sometime this summer.
“We want to teach women how to be philanthropists, and they appreciate the opportunity to learn about issues in the community,” Stern said. The power of collective giving is also part of the draw.
“I took steps to position myself to be able to do it,” said Meridian Napoli, a new member who works in operations at the Comcast Foundation.
“As someone who works in the field, I was so impressed with the quality of their documents,” Napoli added, referring to Impact100’s fine-tuned processes to give members the tools to make informed philanthropic decisions.
Prior to the presentations, Napoli already had her mind made up, but changed it before casting the final vote. “It’s hard, but I could not have made a wrong choice,” she said.