Blog: Onward & Upward


By Joanne Colella

The COVID-19 pandemic did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm and inspiration shared by 56 women who attended the organization’s recent Zoom event, held on June 11. With a theme of Onward and Upward, the first-ever virtual meeting provided an opportunity for new and returning members to engage with one another, hear updates about Impact 100 initiatives from the leadership team, ask questions, and weigh in on future events.

Onward & Upward Event

The event was cheerfully moderated by Casey DeStefano, Enrichment Chair, who set the tone for the fun, upbeat evening. Impact 100 Jersey Coast Co-Founders Deirdre Spiropoulos and Heather Burke each shared opening remarks, leading off with Deirdre’s eloquent recognition of the pain and loss being felt by African Americans throughout our country and right here in our own community. “Impact 100 Jersey Coast hears that pain and sees that loss, and commits ourselves to truly understand what institutionalized, systemic racism is and how it affects all of us,” she said. “As a grantmaker and collective of givers, we believe that black lives matter. Impact 100 is not only committed in words to playing an active role to end institutionalized racism, but we’re committed in action. We stand ready to deploy our grant funds this fall to support local organizations working to create a more just, equal, and fair future.”

We are off to a Strong Start!

Heather gave an update on Impact 100’s recent donation of $17,650 to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, which was raised through members’ donations from part of their annual dues. “These dollars, excitingly, are already being deployed as part of the immediate response effort here in Monmouth County and across the state,” she stated. “In this first response phase, the fund has already made 150 separate grants, totaling $3.2 million, to recipients across all 21 counties of New Jersey. There is still so much work to do, but we are off to a strong start and we should all take great pride in being part of this collaborative effort, which is really in keeping with our mission to multiply our impact by coming together.”

Deirdre also shared images of Impact 100 members recently assisting on the frontlines and sidelines, making an impact in ways both big and small. Those images inspired the creation of the Members in the Moment campaign, highlighting members who are involved with various community efforts and sharing their stories. “This is not the time to be shy or humble,” she stressed, urging everyone to share their stories. “It’s so important that we hear these stories and really share how the women of Impact are making an impact. Stories of hope and positive action are what we need right now.”

For the benefit of those new to Impact as well as a reminder to returning members, there was a graphic of the organization’s annual cycle. March 15 is when membership donations are due and the annual grant fund is announced. April is the time for the membership reception and celebration, with an update from current grantees. From June through October, grant applications are submitted, the grant review process is conducted by FAC committee volunteers, and finalists are selected. Throughout the entire year, members are recruited and the grant fund grows; this year’s astounding total of $456,000 was lauded with a virtual toast. The annual meeting in November is the culmination of the year, with grant finalists making their presentations, members voting, and the four grant recipients announced.

Thanks were given to outgoing Membership Chair Allison Mayo, followed by remarks by incoming Membership Chair Lori Missig, who said, “It takes an army to get to 456 people. We are exploring new ways to reach women in a virtual setting and please continue to tell friends, family members, neighbors, and any other women you know about Impact. We are now accepting new members for the 2021 class.” Membership team volunteers have the chance to be ambassadors for this amazing organization and to meet other great women in our community.

Grants Chair Rowena Crawford-Phillips was excited to be kicking off our fifth grant review season, saying, “Thanks to all of you, it is absolutely fantastic that we’ll be funding four projects with grants of $114,000 each. We know from our grantees what a total game-changer that amount will be for them and it really highlights how unique a giving circle like ours is in the grant-making world.” A total of 106 Impact members volunteered to serve on grant review committees this year. Rowena also explained that as soon as the pandemic hit, one of the priorities was to check in with 2019 grantees and be as supportive as possible. This year promises to be a challenging one and it is expected that all or most site visits may be virtual. There were 61 applications this year, which was very encouraging since the committee didn’t know what to expect. On the one hand, nonprofits are really hurting, but on the other hand, the grant application process is quite robust and time-intensive, particularly for nonprofits dealing with so much. The grant committee felt that it was important to keep the process the same, except for one change: proposals would be accepted not just for expanded and new projects, but also to strengthen and sustain existing projects, which would be important for nonprofits just struggling to keep their doors open and continue what they currently do in the face of COVID.

Volunteer Coordinator Eileen Greenlay spoke about the great benefits of the “job” of being an Impact 100 volunteer, with rewarding results, flexible work arrangements based upon each woman’s skills and availability, and the joy of spending time with talented and fun coworkers, meeting new friends and professional contacts. Events Co-Chair Kristin Gruberg joined in by saying, “So far, what a year this has been! It’s interesting to be in charge of getting people together when technically we’re not supposed to be getting together.” The decision was made to cancel the Summer Soiree, which is usually in August, but the committee is exploring other ways to stay connected via Zoom and other virtual platforms. “November 17, 2020, will be our big night, so save the date!” she exclaimed. “We are still working through details on what the evening will look like, but you can expect an amazing and exhilarating night as we each cast our vote and choose our 2020 grant recipients. You personally will truly feel the impact of your individual donation and know how much you’re helping the community.”

A poll was conducted during the Zoom meeting, asking members to weigh in on what would be their first choice of the type of online activities to attend, what topics they would be most interested in, whether they were more likely to attend in-person or virtual events in the coming year, and what time of day would be preferable. “We are not making any decisions on the spot,” Kristin assured everyone. “We want to take time to hear from you and a lot will change over the upcoming months with events in general. We will continue to gather more information to help us plan in the months ahead.”

At the end of the festive and informative Zoom event, members had the chance to participate in a ten-minute Q&A session and were reminded to be sure to check the Impact 100 website, social media, and emails for lots of terrific information and important updates, including Impact’s COVID response and hands-on volunteer opportunities. The final moments of the evening were dedicated to asking members to offer the one word that comes to mind when they think of Impact 100. The responses were immediate, with words such as Unity, Inspiring, Caring, Impactful, Together, Gratitude, Hopeful, Empowerment, Influential, Dedicated, and Compassionate. For the members of Impact 100 Jersey Coast and those they assist, the organization is surely all of those, and so much more.

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