As we approach our 10th Annual Meeting, Impact100 Philadelphia is thrilled to celebrate a decade of engagement throughout our greater community. We are proud to have touched hundreds of lives through our support of 39 Philadelphia area nonprofit organizations. Recently, founders Beth Dahle and Mary Broach shared their perspectives regarding the establishment of Impact100 Philadelphia, the growth of the organization and aspirations for the future. Read about these two insightful women who became the catalyst for change and leaders in the collective giving movement.
What was the impetus for bringing Impact100 to Philadelphia?
Beth: I learned of the Impact100 model while visiting my husband’s family in Cincinnati in 2007. I thought I could find something similar to join in Philadelphia but when I couldn’t, I told my good friend Mary Broach that I had an idea and she was on board immediately. We co-founded Impact100 Philadelphia that year and served as the organization’s first co-presidents.
Mary: Beth learned of the concept in Cincinnati and first told me about it on a walk in February 2008. I was hooked within 5 minutes! I loved that the first half of the year would be spent finding women who wanted to participate, and then the second half would be devoted to proposal review and selecting our grantees. I didn’t know of anything like this happening in Philly, and though I had worked for a local nonprofit for years, I was eager to learn about more organizations and issues in our region.
How did the two of you know each other?
Beth: We actually met for the first time at my house when a mutual friend invited Mary to join a women’s gourmet group that, 22 years later, still gathers several times a year. Although we became friends, we didn’t see each other that often and, because our girls were at different schools, we hadn’t had the opportunity to work together on a committee or other endeavor. Ironically, it was our husbands who first had a partnership, together coaching two of our daughters on a Main Line Girls Basketball team.
Mary: A mutual friend invited me to join a dinner group that she and Beth were starting. We all had toddlers at home and a lot in common! That was the beginning of our long friendship.
What was going on in your life when you started the work to create the organization?
Beth: Although I started my professional career as a pension and employee benefits consultant, by the time we contemplated launching Impact100 Philadelphia, I had spent more than 10 years in the nonprofit sector as a volunteer, donor, board member and grant writer. My daughters were in middle school, and I was looking for a new opportunity with nonprofits that would also allow me to engage more deeply with the local community.
Mary: That was my one hesitation about committing to Impact100 Philadelphia. I had three kids at home, was working part-time, and was heavily involved in a few other volunteer roles. I knew Impact100 Philadelphia would be a big commitment but of course had no idea how big… It rapidly became a full-time endeavor that had to be squeezed into every spare moment. (There were days that first year when Beth and I would start the day on the phone at 6 am and wrap it up with a last call at 11 pm!) But it was so worth it. I never regretted for a moment the decision to forge ahead, and I couldn’t have possibly had a better partner than Beth.
How long did establishment take? When did you know it was going to work?
Beth: Once we decided to bring Impact100 to the Greater Philadelphia region, things moved very quickly. We contacted some of the other early Impact groups to learn of their experience, by April 2008 we obtained our tax identification number from the IRS and in May we sent a hard copy letter to about 300 women, explaining the model, confirming interest, and most importantly, asking them to share this idea with others. It took less than a day for someone to contact us who wanted to be “involved from the ground up,” and just five days for us to hear from someone whom neither Mary nor I knew. Word of mouth is still one of the most effective means helping us to continue to attract new members. By December 2008, we surpassed our initial goal of 100 and 111 women became founding Impact100 Philadelphia members. Together we awarded the first Impact100 Philadelphia grant—for $111,000- in June 2009.
Mary: We decided to go for it in April 2008 and were confident we could figure out the steps needed to bring Impact100 Philadelphia into existence. We strongly suspected that other women would want to participate, but wanted to be sure, so we sent a letter to 300 women we knew (some well, some just barely) to “test the waters.” We received our first “I’m in!” response less than a day after mailing the letter, and never looked back.
What has it been like to turn the organization over to other women? How do you prevent involvement from becoming intervention when you “give birth” to an organization?
Beth: Admittedly, it was a little weird when we were no longer on the board but we recognized the importance of best practices for organizational governance and knew that the key to the long-term sustainability of Impact100 Philadelphia was to engage more women and cultivate new leaders. Early on, I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to meet women whose paths I might never have crossed. As I got to work with them, I realized the tremendous wealth of knowledge and depth of experience these women brought to our collective, collaborative, grant-making program. And, I knew that local nonprofits, as well as our organization, would benefit significantly if we could harness the wisdom, passion and energy our growing membership.
Mary: Great question, and this has sometimes been hard. Impact100 Philadelphia’s leaders over the years have been, without exception, smart, dedicated women, and they have been tremendously effective and devoted to the organization’s success. It’s always hard to let go of something you’ve been intensely involved with, but Beth and I have been really fortunate that subsequent leaders have included us in organizational discussions year after year. We so appreciate that – it allows us to stay closely connected and join in the fun and satisfaction of running this great organization.
What are you doing now in addition to Impact100 Philadelphia activities?
Beth: While no longer on the Board, I am still very much involved with Impact100 Philadelphia, serving on the Strategic Planning Committee and participating on a Focus Area Committee each year. More recently it has been truly heartwarming and enjoyable to work closely with most of our founding board members on a steering committee to bring the next national conference of the Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network (WCGN) to Philadelphia. Impact100 Philadelphia will host this conference, titled, “We The Women,” October 21-23, where we expect over 300 women to attend, coming from both the local region and around the country. WCGN’s network includes 58 organizations in 25 states, and represents more than 14,000 women members. In 2017 alone, WCGN member organizations awarded grants totaling $13 million.
Like some of our members who transitioned from the for-profit sector, I am now the Executive Director of Compass in Philadelphia, a nonprofit which provides pro bono strategy consulting to other nonprofits. This role has enabled me to utilize my business expertise in a new way.
Mary: I work about 15 hours a week as a consultant in organizational development (to health care and higher ed clients) and chair a board of a U.S. foundation that supports community development in Cambodia. This year, I’ve spent a lot of time on Impact100 Philadelphia as an Focus Area Committee Chair and on the WCGN “We The Women” conference we’re planning for next October. I can’t believe how much I continue to learn from Impact100 Philadelphia.
Where do you think we’ll be 5 years down the road?
Beth: I hope we will be awarding five, or more, $100,000 grants to strong local nonprofits working to provide services that address our community’s most critical needs. I expect that we will be further enriched by a growing and diverse membership, including an increasing number of younger women who can bring a broader perspective to our grant making program.
Mary: I’m not sure, but I think our core mission focus is here to stay, and I’m excited to see the impact of those grants in future years. I like how our organization has grown and changed organically over the years, and my guess is that will continue to happen. As needs and opportunities arise, we’ll respond.
Most memorable Impact100 Philadelphia experience?
Beth: A truly significant milestone was the Annual Meeting in our third year when we were able to award a grant to all five finalists. However, the most meaningful and possibly rewarding aspect of Impact100 Philadelphia is seeing our members meet new women, get to know each other, form friendships, and become more deeply involved in the local nonprofit community.
Mary: Honestly, it’s impossible to single out only one. There are too many!
What’s the most important lesson from your experiences?
Beth: Trust your gut, be open to change, and that the wisdom of a collaborative group, through rich and broad discussion, and consideration from a number of perspectives, results in the best decisions.
Mary: From day one, I’ve relished the fact that we – all Impact100 Philadelphia members – are beholden to no one but ourselves. If we think of a better way of doing something, there’s nothing stopping us from doing it. All it takes is thoughtful planning and the courage to take on something new. I love that we can be bold and make changes if we feel it’s best for either Impact or our grantmaking. Impact has taught me to think more strategically and creatively about both problems and solutions.
If you could solve one problem through philanthropy in the region, what would it be?
Mary: The wide gaps in income and opportunities experienced by people in our region.
Would you have done anything differently?
Mary: Honestly, no. We made mistakes but it’s impossible not to. We’ve had setbacks but the overall trajectory has been up, up, up – always better, year after year. That’s due to our members, an amazing group of women.
What’s been the greatest surprise?
Beth: The loyalty of members. Impact100 Philadelphia is fundamentally a one-year commitment. All funds donated by December 1st each year are awarded the following June with every member given the opportunity to vote for the distribution of grants among the five finalists. However, 10 years in, almost half of our founding members are still involved and 80% of members renew each year. And, these committed women have shared the Impact100 model with other friends and colleagues, enabling us to grow the membership and provide an increasing amount of support to local nonprofits.
Mary: I have been surprised by how much I’ve gained personally through this experience. I wanted to do it to leverage my personal donation and to learn about nonprofits in the region. But I have gained so, so much – friends, knowledge, skills, employment opportunities, and a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from what we all have created through Impact100 Philadelphia.
What advice do you have for young women who want to make a difference?
Beth: Be an informed giver—in their own personal giving as well as through Impact100 Philadelphia.
Mary: Don’t be afraid to just jump in. You don’t have to know the answers; just get started. Join Impact100 Philadelphia or a similar group, volunteer, participate. You’ll end up receiving so much more than you give.