According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit and charitable organizations registered in the United States. Though these numbers reflect that we are not an ideal society, they also indicate that we are trying. Because of growing income disparity and social needs in this country, nonprofits are essential.
"The problems are simply too big and getting bigger every minute," says Neil Edgington, president of Social Velocity, a management consulting firm specializing in nonprofit organizations. "Government resources are shrinking, so the greater burden for solutions is increasingly placed on the shoulders of the nonprofit sector. As problems get worse and money gets tighter, the social change sector will take center stage."
Yet as the need for nonprofits grows, the private donations on which those organizations depend have not kept pace. In spite of an improving economy, funding for charities is stagnant.
But don't tell that to Impact100 Sonoma. Each year, the group pools donations of $1,000 from 100 women and donates grants up to $100,000 to competing local nonprofits after a group vote.
"Our motto is $1,000, one woman, one vote," says Celia Canfield, co-president of Impact100 Sonoma.
Since 2009, Impact100 Sonoma has awarded $929,000 to nonprofits serving Sonoma County, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, La Luz Center, Sonoma Valley Teen Services, Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and the Redwood Empire Food Bank and the Sonoma Land Trust.
"It's a labor of love for each of us, and we make commitments of three-plus years to serving the community through this organization," says Canfield. "It's the bigger picture of serving the community that drives us."
Impact100 Sonoma is one of several Impact100 chapters around the country. The group originated in the Cincinnati/northern Kentucky area in 2001 with the purpose of promoting philanthropy among women. Impact100 Sonoma is the only group of its kind in California, but there are now 18 Impact100s in the United States and three in Australia.
"We have heard from other communities in California about how we organized, and we expect that there will probably be a sister group in Northern California joining us at some point in the future," says Canfield.