South Jersey women prove you don’t have to have ‘deep pockets’ to make an impact

Big Brothers Big Sister of Cumberland and Salem Counties were the receipients of a $100k grant from Impact100 South Jersey. (L-R Front Row): Judy Greenberg, Kyle Ruffin, BBBS Director of Programs Tygh Powell, BBBS’ Niyah Cosme, BBBS CEO Donna Bennett, BBBS Board Member Denise Jackson, Stefanie Levine Cohen, Angela Venti. Second Row: Nancy Weber, Nina Cohen, Patti Withington, Emily Orel, Amy Leis. Third Row: Theresa DiVietro, BBBS Board Member Paul Perino, Irene Giman, BBBS Development Director Melody Montgomery.

Impact100 South Jersey has set out to prove that you don’t have to be a wealthy philanthropist to make your mark. 

“We’re just regular women who are putting our resources together to make a big difference,” said Kyle Ruffin, one of the South Jersey chapter’s founding members. 

Impact100 South Jersey is a global women’s collective giving initiative. Started in the United States, Impact100’s model encourages at least 100 women to donate $1,000 each. In turn, the $100,000 they raise is awarded to a local charity or nonprofit organization for one time projects that will enhance the organization’s mission. 

The South Jersey chapter formed in 2017, and the bulk of its membership stems from Moorestown, Haddonfield and Cherry Hill. With upcoming recruitment events throughout the fall, they’re hoping to expand their reach and get women throughout Burlington, Gloucester, Camden and Cumberland counties involved.

Ruffin said the South Jersey chapter is an offshoot of the Community Foundation of South Jersey. She said in 2015, the Community Foundation brought together some local South Jersey philanthropists for a panel event where they talked about the importance of leaving a legacy behind. She said while the message resonated with the women in attendance, many wondered how they could make an impact if they didn’t have the means that some of the panelists have.

So, the Community Foundation started exploring other ways that women could have a pathway for giving back. That’s when they came upon the Impact100 model, and so they set out to start the South Jersey chapter in February of 2017. By that September, they’d launched the initiative under the Community Foundation’s umbrella. 

“It’s an opportunity for us to really show the many ways that people can give back even if you don’t have super deep pockets,” Ruffin said. “This is a very effective way of increasing the amount of resources that are available to local South Jersey organizations.” 

Admittedly, there were skeptics, Ruffin said. Some wondered if they’d recruit enough women to successfully meet their goal, and in that first year, they were just shy. They’d encouraged 74 women to join and had raised $74,000, enough to give a significant grant to a local organization.

Impact100’s model says that if they raise $100,000, they must give at least a $100,000 grant to an organization. Anything over that, they can distribute to organizations as they see fit. That first year, they awarded the $74,000 to Hopeworks ‘N Camden, an organization that helps Camden’s youth grow their technological skills by teaching them how to code and build websites. The grant enabled the group to expand its technological education, training and career support services.

The following year, the South Jersey chapter set out to have 150 members, so they could award $150,000 in grants, and they exceeded that goal having recruited 155 women in 2018. They had three finalists in contention for the funds. Ultimately, they awarded Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cumberland & Salem Counties the $100,000 grant to bolster its online communications system and thereby increase the number of mentors it can recruit. 

With the remaining funds, they awarded general operating grants to The Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey to transform its all purpose room into a therapy room. They also awarded a grant to Ronald McDonald House in Camden to replace carperting.

Ruffin said members can be as involved as they choose. She said some simply donate the money while others are actively involved in the grant application process They thoroughly vet applicants. Ruffin said most of the women have no experience working with nonprofits and grants, so this is an opportunity for them to learn more about the criteria organizations must meet to earn a grant. 

This September, the women kick off their 2019 recruitment efforts. Their deadline for fundraising is Dec.1, and they’ll hold an event in January to reveal to their members just how much they’ve raised.

Membership is only a year-long commitment, so members have to reenlist each year. Ruffin said their goal for 2019 is to recruit 200 members. She said to date, most of their recruits have come by word of mouth, but they’ll be hosting events throughout South Jersey in the weeks to come at locations in Cherry Hill, Medford, Voorhees, Haddonfield and Mount Laurel. 

To learn more about Impact100 South Jersey or to find an information session, visit https://impact100sj.org/attend-an-info-session