Impact 100 Chicago: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: This funder supports nonprofits in the areas of culture, education, family, health, and sustainability. There are separate chapters for the city and suburbs, and a big goal is to empower women through philanthropy.

FUNDING AREAS: Culture, education, family, health, sustainability.

IP TAKE: Pitch a program/project related to youth engagement, employment and economic advancement in poor Chicago neighborhoods, or to mental health. Bonus points if it advances women in the process.

PROFILE: Impact 100 is a women’s giving collective that has gained momentum in communities around the country. Chicago has a chapter for both the city and the suburbs. The funder’s mission is to “award membership funded transformational grants to local non-profit organizations while empowering women to improve lives through philanthropy.”

Wendy Steel started the Impact 100 movement back in September 2001, starting in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. Steel is also the founder of Generosity Matters, which assesses organizations and works with them to implement changes to build a culture of generosity.

In recent years, the Impact 100 model has spread around the country. By the end of a recent year, Impact 100 organizations in the United States had given away more than $29 million to people in need. And it continues to grow. Here's the list of local Impact 100 groups in the U.S., including several in Australia:  

  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Pensacola, Florida
  • Austin, Texas
  • Baldwin County, Alabama
  • Chicago, Illinois - Suburban
  • Chicago, Illinois - City
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Garden State, New Jersey
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Northwest Florida
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Owensboro, Kentucky
  • Palm Beach County, Florida
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Sonoma, California
  • Vero Beach (Indian River), Florida
  • Westchester, New York
  • Western, Australia
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Fremantle, Australia
  • South Australia
  • Queensland, Australia (Women & Change)
  • Greater New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Yampa Valley, Colorado
  • Impact Fairfield, Connecticut
  • Greater Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Jersey Coast, New Jersey
  • Palm Beach (North), Florida

And there are plans for groups in Nashville, Annapolis, Ft. Lauderdale, Boston, Oakland County Michigan, Denver, and Montgomery, Alabama.

Marybeth Lernihan, Chair of Impact 100 Chicago, became the initial driving force for an Impact 100 Chicago chapter after seeing the organization's work while visiting a friend in Cincinnati. Georgy Ann Peluchiwski and Allison Bacon started the city chapter in Chicago in 2012. In 2015, the group’s combined city/suburb membership reached 492 women.

For grantseekers, these are the five focus areas that Impact 100 Chicago currently accepts applications for:

  • Culture – explore and educate about arts, cultural heritage, and diversity.
  • Education – learning opportunities for children and adults.
  • Family – programs for families and children in the community.
  • Health – physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Sustainability – open and public spaces, healthy food systems, urban agriculture, environment.

You can view a list of recent grant recipients on the foundation’s website. In the past, grants have trended toward youth engagement, employment and economic advancement in poor neighborhoods, and toward mental health programs.

This funder accepts applications that propose a new project or program, or expand or continue a proven program. Just note that this is a funder of program/project support over general operating support. The number of grants awarded each year is dependent upon the current membership numbers. For example, in a recent grant cycle, the group awarded four $100,000 grants and seven merit grants of lesser value.

Letters of inquiry are typically due in early December and full applications are due in mid-February. Site visits are part of the process, and final decisions are announced in the spring of each year. Both the city and suburban chapters host award celebrations in the late spring/early summer. As of the 2015/2016 grant cycle, the funder stopped creating review committees based on focus areas. Instead, review committees receive letters of inquiry for all focus areas.

Questions can be directed to grants@impact100chicago.org. You can also check the Upcoming Events page to see what the funder is up to in the Chicago area. The leadership team tends to change year by year, so you can view the current listing here.

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