Making an Impact in Northwest Florida
Impact 100 of Northwest Florida is a local organization focused on raising funds from women in Okaloosa and Walton Counties to provide large grants of no less than $100,000 to local non-profit groups in the community
The organization is modeled after the in Pensacola Bay Area group that recently celebrated their 10th anniversary and has the organization’s largest membership; this year surpassing the 1,000 mark.
Sandy Sims, the president of the Northwest Florida chapter, says their organization has only been around for two years but is growing steadily, "Our first year, right out of the shoot we raised $128,00 with 128 members. Last year we had 220 members. So we were able to give two grants of $110,000 each. This year our goal is 300 members, and we’re better than half way there."
Sims says becoming a member is easy. You must be a woman, 18 years old or older and you need to have a $1,000. There are no monthly meetings to attend and you can be as active or as passive as you’d like, "We have some women who write a check for $1,000 and then join us for our annual meeting in November to vote for which organization receives the funds. We have other women like myself, who are involved, fully involved on the board in committees and in the whole process."
Last year’s president and a founding member, Michelle Anchors says the organization is completely volunteer run and extremely effective because of it, "Every single penny of a woman’s membership dues goes directly into that grant that then serves a nonprofit. We don’t take a single penny for administrative expenses. We find other ways to do that."
That includes in-kind contributions and smaller financial donations from individuals of any gender.
Once the membership drive is completed the organization then determines the funds available for this year’s grants, and organizes into committees to address the five areas of need in the community. They are arts and culture environment, recreation and preservation, education, family, and health and wellness.
Anchors encourages all community nonprofit groups to apply for the grants, "I am constantly seeing that there are some great organizations that didn’t know Impact 100 exists because it’s hard to believe that right here in your home town that you could compete for $100,000 and know that it’s staying right here. You’re not competing with organizations all over the southeast or over the country."
In the organization’s short history, it has awarded three grants of over $100,000 each. In 2012, their first grant went to the Judge Ben Gordon Family Visitation Center to build an additional location in North Okaloosa County. The following year two grants were awarded. One funded a refrigerated truck for Destin Harvest. Anchors says another went to The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, "They are using their substantial grant money to build something that was in their dreams. That is a medical facility for wildlife that will be serving wildlife that is unfortunately usually damaged or injured by human causes. And having them restored in a healthy and natural way allows us to really enhance and preserve the natural environment that we’re blessed with in Northwest Florida."
This year, Impact 100 Northwest Florida is hoping to provide three grants totaling three hundred thousand dollars. To do that, they need to increase their membership to three hundred women, who are able to contribute one thousand dollars each. Again, president Sandy Sims, "Impact 100 isn’t about wealthy women; it’s about women with a generous heart and a giving spirit."
The Membership drive wraps up this Thursday, May 1st. More information on becoming a member or applying for a grant is at ImpactNWF.org.