National Impact 100 founder talks to Owensboro group

March 5, 2020 | 12:06 am

Updated March 4, 2020 | 9:47 pm

In 2001, Wendy Steele launched Impact 100 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The group empowers women to fund grants that are transformational within the communities served by each chapter. In 2006, Marianne Smith Edge and Martha Clark co-founded Impact 100 Owensboro and in the organization’s 15 years, it has given more than $3 million to 21 local nonprofits.

Owensboro Times sat down with Steele prior to the Impact 100 Owensboro’s public celebration that was held at the RiverPark Center Wednesday night.

Steele visits the 60-plus global Impact 100 chapters as often as she is invited to meet the people who “make it happen.”


Steele said the 15-year milestone for the Owensboro chapter is an opportunity to reflect and for members and potential members to consider what they can to change in the next 15 years.

“This is your invitation,” she said of the inclusive organization.

Steele said for those currently involved in the organization to look around and think about who is missing.

“Anyone who cares about Owensboro can be a member — invite them,” she said of the Impact 100 Owensboro’s goal of having 300 “strong, proud and powerful” from the community. “[Tell them] ‘We can get there but not without you.’”

The purpose of Impact 100 exists to serve the nonprofits, and because of these grants, great things are happening in the community.

The foundation of Impact 100 serves five focus areas: Arts & Culture, Education, Environment, Family and Health & Wellness, and according to Steele, every nonprofit mission can be noticed in one of those areas.

Women who join have the ability to make their involvement as transformational as they want, but because of their pledge of $1,000, they have already put in place the ripple effect.

“It’s an impact of Impact,” she said. “We are only ever as powerful as the women who join.”

The grants are transformational in several ways, Steele said.

First, they are transformational not only for the grant recipient but also for those who use the services of the selected nonprofit, whether it is through transportation, programming or other services provided by the nonprofit.

Second, the women who are involved are transformed. By design, women can donate and not be involved again until the annual vote, or they can serve on committees where they read grant applications, discuss it, go to site visits and then choose one to represent the focus area that will go up against one from each of the other areas to be voted on at the annual meeting by the full membership.

“Their lives are changed [by their involvement],” she said, adding that they are already watching the news and worrying about how to solve problems and now, through Impact 100, they are helping make their communities a better place.

They are also connecting to others in this network of women while recognizing their leadership potential.

“They understand the community in a way they never did,” she said.

These women also take what they are learning to their families and workplaces. They speak of the nonprofits and generate ideas. NextGen, the all-female high school-aged group is an example of women teaching their daughters about philanthropy.

“It’s not just about the 700-plus members [of Impact 100 Owensboro’s lifetime] and the money — it’s the ripple,” Steele said. “And we’re just getting started.”

Steele said that giving women the power to write the check is as important as learning what is holding them back and that in order to get to the next milestone of giving three $100,000 grants, members need to personally invite others to join.

These sentiments were echoed through the celebration Wednesday night, which included co-founders Martha Clark and Marianne Edge telling the well-attended event they began the chapter because no community in Kentucky had an organization like this at the time. Edge said that creating Impact 100 Owensboro has transformed the community by transforming the nonprofit community.

“Our goal is to inspire, educate and encourage women,” Clark said.

Next Gen chair Joy Carroll said that through the organization, the young women are learning the power of generosity. In three years, NextGen has awarded $26,700 in grants.

When Steele took the stage, she said that what makes Owensboro so amazing is its community.

“NextGen got to see the amazing nonprofits in your community doing what they do best,” Steele said.

Steele said when women write their check for $1,000, she wants them to feel connected to their gift.

“One thousand is a stop-and-think number,” she said. “You will remember it.”

And regardless of socioeconomic status, she believes the donor will feel attached to it, which is the intention.

Highlighting that any nonprofit’s mission can qualify under the five broad focus areas, Steele said that women can connect in Impact in many ways.

“The more involved you are, the better your experience will be,” she said, but also told the audience that there is no guilt or obligation for those that want to just write the check.

“I hope that you think back with pride that you have transformed your community…that what you are doing is significant,” she said.

March 5, 2020 | 12:06 am

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