What happens when 200 women each donate $1,000 to local nonprofit organizations

When the women of Impact100 were first reviewing the stacks of applicants to their grant program this past February, little could they have known about the events that would dominate the news cycle in May and June.

Worldwide pandemic. International demonstrations for racial justice. Civil unrest.

But as the non-profit organization applicants were winnowed down to a final four and the news unfolded before us, Amy Bouque, president of Impact100 Metro Detroit, had a feeling that The Lawn Academy and the Micah 6 Community would come out on top.

Each received a $100,000 grant from the women of Impact100.

"All four of our finalists do amazing work. Where we are today with the pandemic and racial injustices, I predicted the two winners because I know the hearts and minds of our group," Bouque says. Deaf Professional Arts Network and Dutton Farm were named runners-up in the contest.

"All four are amazing. But today, when contextualizing what’s happening in our communities and our cities, it makes sense."

Impact100 Metro Detroit is the first Michigan chapter for the organization, which started in Cincinnati and now has more than 50 chapters across the country, and even a few in Australia and the UK, too.

The basic concept is what happens when 100 women donate $1,000 each, resulting in a large grant for a well-deserved organization. Non-profits apply for the grant, a group of finalists is named, and members then vote on whichever group they believe deserves the money. The organization with the most votes wins.

The Metro Detroit chapter has grown since its founding in 2015. Impact100 has more than 200 members now, allowing them to give two $100,000 grants for the first time.

They’re on track to have 300 members next year and 500 just a couple years later. The goal is to give five $100,000 grants to organizations in the following categories: Arts and culture, education, environment, human services, and urban revitalization.

"The only thing we really have in common is our gender," Bouque says.

"It’s a very diverse group, with women in their early 20s to their 80s. We have women in the corporate world, we have stay-at-home moms, we have retirees.

"We come at it with different experiences and perspectives."

Though it may be a diverse group of women, affecting positive change is what unites them.

Previous winners include The Empowerment Plan, an organization that hires homeless women to sew sleeping bag coats, which are then given to the homeless; Downtown Boxing Gym, an after-school academic, and athletic program; Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids, an organization that provides wigs to children experiencing hair loss due to illness and treatment; and Zaman International, a humanitarian organization that focuses on marginalized women and children.

Three of the four have since been recognized by CNN’s Heroes project.

"Our women have the uncanny ability to find really fantastic groups and transformational leaders," Bouque says.

"When we met with Micah 6, they said they had looked for funding and a funding source turned them down and told them that no way would they win an Impact100 grant either. Since they’ve won, that funding source has reached back out to them."

The Micah 6 Community is a community development group in Pontiac. The organization runs a community garden and the Sprout Fresh Food Store, which offers fresh produce at low prices.

This year’s other winner, The Lawn Academy, is a Detroit-based college immersion and academic enrichment program for young people aged 11 to 19 years old. The students start going to college classrooms at 11 years old. When not in class, they provide free lawncare services to the city’s elderly population, veterans, and people with special needs.

Each received a $100,000 Impact100 grant, announced earlier this month.

"We’re not heroes. We just want to fuel transformational change," Bouque says.

"These organizations, they’re the heroes."

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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.