I remember when I was first approached about participating in Impact 100 Traverse City. It was late fall of 2016, and Tonya Wildfong from Team Elmer’s met with me to explain what the group was trying to do. I have to admit, I didn’t really get it at first. After all, when someone is asking you to contribute $1,000, that alone is a big ask. Then, when they tell you that your donation will be pooled with at least another ninety-nine $1,000 donations, you’re likely to be skeptical. And finally, when you hear that your $1,000 donation gets you a single vote for one of the five non-profit finalists, you might find yourself really lost. At least momentarily.
I remember asking Tonya, “Why wouldn’t I just donate $1,000 to my favorite non-profit in the first place?”
Tonya explained to me that I can definitely do that. She said if I felt strongly about a particular charity and I wanted to donate, I should definitely do that. But then she said that the power of combining our individual gifts did something truly unique. It allowed our community to think big. That, she said, was the purpose of Impact 100.
That’s when it happened. The “a-ha” moment. Honestly, I said, “ah-ha,” when I finally connected the dots.
I spent six years working for a non-profit. It was challenging, emotionally draining work. It took patience and creativity, but the results—the real joy of working with at-risk kids—was endlessly rewarding. Unfortunately, we spent so many years just trying to keep our metaphorical heads above water, that we never found ourselves in a position to actually be able to think about the future. Piecing together grants and donations and earned revenue to keep the lights on and the staff paid was beyond a full-time job. I thought for a moment about what might have happened if someone told us we had $100,000. What might we have created with the ability to dream?
Ever since that day, I have been a member of Impact 100, and an advocate for the powerful giving opportunity that is Impact 100. In 2017, the inaugural year, 255 women joined Impact 100. That resulted in two gifts of $127,500 award to Inland Seas Education and Peace Ranch. The following year, Traverse City’s Impact 100 group gave away two grants of $123,500 each to Communities in Schools and Addiction Treatment Services. In 2019 and 2020, Impact 100 TC recruited over 300 members, resulting in gifts of over $100,000 to the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, Child & Family Services of Northwest Michigan, Kalkaska Area Interfaith Resources, Newton’s Road Northwest, Michael’s Place and Habitat for Humanity. In total, over the course of just four years, Impact 100 Traverse City has donated more than $1,122,000 to area non-profits. Over a million dollars impacting our community and allowing for non-profits to dream.
Recruiting members throughout 2020 has proven to be a challenge for obvious reasons. The traditional in-person membership social mixers were scrapped for Zoom meet-ups, but the women from the all female, all volunteer organization are laser focused on recruiting.
There are many reasons to join Impact 100. But for me, knowing that I have played a small role in creating real, transformational change in my community was more than I ever could have asked for.
If you’re interested in joining, learning more, inquiring about scholarships or interested in applying for one of the transformational grants, go to
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