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Impact Fairfield County recruiting new members

September 25, 2018

GREENWICH — Since it was founded in 2016, the Greenwich-based Impact Fairfield County has given invaluable grant money to organizations serving homeless youth, sending kids to preschool and assisting victims of sexual assault. And the push is on to bring more women into this effort.

Impact Fairfield County is a women’s-only giving circle. Members give $1,000 each, then the group votes on where the grant money will go. The more members it has, the more Impact can give.

It awarded two $100,000 grants earlier this year. The goal is to give that amount again in 2019.

The group is now recruiting new members from Greenwich and from throughout the county. Prospective members can learn more about Impact at two upcoming events: a fall kick-off meeting at 9:45 a.m. Oct. 3 at Grace Farms in New Canaan, and a fall cocktails event at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Granola Bar in Greenwich.

“Every year we start with a clean slate,” Impact Fairfield County co-president Wendy Block said. “We have past members, many of whom continue their membership for a new year, but we also are bringing in new members. Our events in October are open to the public and open to anyone who wants to participate.”

Past members will attend to discuss why they are joining up again. And nonprofits that have won grants from the giving circle will talk about the group’s impact.

“This is our big push to bring in new members,” Impact Fairfield County co-president Vicki Craver said. “The whole goal is to take their $1,000 and leverage it by pooling it so they get to be part of a $100,000 grant, which is more than they usually would or could do on their own. They get to be part of the process and hear about the needs in the community and to be part of the solution.”

The group brings an infusion of funding for unmet needs in the community, Block said. “Not only are they helping by being a part of putting together these $100,000 grants, but they’re learning what the needs are in our community and how to deal with them on a deeper level,” she said. “We want to be a catalyst to do more, too.”

Block and Craver, both of whom are Greenwich residents, started Impact Fairfield County in 2016 after they were inspired by the model’s success elsewhere in the country.

“Our membership feels like they’re making a difference,” Craver said. The retention rate for members is nearly 80 percent.

Block added, “Each year we’re constantly trying to improve.”

In May, Impact Fairfield County gave $100,000 impact grants to Bridgeport-based Supportive Housing Works and to the Stamford Public Education Foundation. Additionally it gave $10,000 grants to the Carver Foundation of Norwalk’s middle school summer transition program and the Open Doors: Changing Lives Through Living Wage Jobs in Norwalk for its general operations. Last year, 57 nonprofits applied for impact grants.

The application process for nonprofits to apply for 2019 grants will be open between Oct. 17 and Nov. 14. To be eligible, the nonprofits must seek funding for programs or initiatives that are either new or that can take the nonprofit’s mission to the “next level.” Also, the funding is designed to support initiatives that can be sustainable.

For the 2019 grants, Block said the group will focus on elevating and strengthening membership engagement. In January, it will host an education event for members to learn about the community’s needs and determine the most effective responses.

Eligible nonprofits should submit one letter of inquiry per cycle for Impact Fairfield County. Preference is given to organizations that do not have the resources of larger nonprofits, have limited access to large grants and are working to highlight unmet needs.

“We would love to be reaching more nonprofits throughout Fairfield County,” Block said.

Impact Fairfield County is looking to fund lesser-known initiatives.

“All of these nonprofits have things they want to accomplish and changes they want to make in the community,” Craver said. “They just need to take what their goals are and what their dreams are and decide potential ways to put it into action. Impact can provide that jump-start funding to get something going or significantly expand an existing program. We provide an opportunity for nonprofits to dream big and those kinds of opportunities are not plentiful.”

The process also gives a nonprofit an opportunity to make its case about its work in front of a large group of women, which spreads the word on its work and can lead to other opportunities from other sources. Members of Impact can give individually or become board members with the nonprofits, even if a group does not get an impact grant.

In 2019, members of Impact Fairfield County will consider the requests and do site visits as part of the evaluation. Four finalists will be chosen, and the group will vote in May on which nonprofits will get the grant money.

More information is available online at www.impactffc.org, including a link on how to join the giving circle and how nonprofits can apply for a grant.

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