Ginny Fischbach of Impact100 on Impact Investing Inglenook
Romy interviews the founder of Impact 100 Oakland County (Michigan), Ginny Fischbach. What happens when 100 women put $1000 each together for a community good?
Romy: Welcome to the Impact Investing Inglenook of Bonfires of Social Enterprise. You will meet Ginny Fischbach of a women’s funding group named Impact 100. Now there are Impact 100 groups all over the world. You will learn more about these groups in just one minute.
First, I want to give a shout out to our listeners and fans in Australia. I want to thank you for your support of our show. And, I know you guys have an Impact 100 group! Very cool. Okay, let me turn our attention to my interview with Ginny
Romy: Welcome, Ginny.
Ginny: Well, thank you, glad to be here.
Romy: I’m excited to interview you for our Impact Investing segment of Bonfires of Social Enterprise. Let’s jump right to it, what is Impact100?
Ginny: Well, Impact100 is you get a group of women, and you try for a hundred or more women, each woman gives a thousand dollars, donates a thousand dollars, and then we turn that into a one hundred thousand dollar grant for some local nonprofit. If we get more members, of course, the grants get bigger. It started in Cincinnati in 2001, the first Impact100. A lady by the name of Wendy Steele, who now lives in Michigan. She started a group of one hundred in Cincinnati. She had heard of giving circles and stuff and thought it was a great idea to pool money but at a larger scale. She got a hundred women and gave out a hundred thousand dollar grant, and it’s been growing ever since then. Cincinnati now has almost five hundred members, so they’re giving close to half a million dollars out a year in grants, which is just awesome.
Romy: Oh my gosh, yes.
Ginny: They’ve made a huge impact on that city, and they’re really active. It’s grown now to thirty-six chapters around the world, thirty of which are in the US and six in Australia, over four hundred thousand members around the country which are really pretty cool. It’s very, also, a loose organization so we’re not paying dues into a national organization of any kind, it’s just everybody helps each other to do their own thing in their area. You can modify the processes and stuff to fit your local area, to make it work for you, so it’s really pretty exciting.
Romy: That’s incredibly exciting. I love anything that has to do with a village coming around an idea, sourcing, lots of resources. You get a lot of people together, and you can really make a huge impact. Is that where the name came from or is there a history of the name?
Ginny: Exactly. She named it Impact100 thinking, “If I get a hundred women, I can make a huge impact. If we pool our money we can make a huge impact on a community.” That’s where the name came from, which is pretty exciting.
Romy: When did Oakland County’s begin?
Ginny: Well, we just started this year. This is our first year, so we’re really excited. We started getting members first of the year, we got our 501(c)(3) from the IRS in November, I think it was, so right after the holidays we started. In about six months we were able to find a hundred women, so we know there’s a lot of women who want to give in the community. We have a lot of areas we haven’t even reached in Oakland County, yet so I think we can get a lot more members real soon.
We just started and if we want to talk about why we started? I have a home down in Fairhope, Alabama, and it’s in Baldwin County. There’s an organization down there, an Impact100 organization, that now has almost five hundred members, so they’re giving out close to half a million dollars a year in the area. The women down there are so excited by it; it’s catching. You can’t help but get excited just talking to them. When I retired, a couple of them talked to me and said I should look at it; I ought to do what they’re doing down there, and so I talked to them and got excited and got started up here for that very reason. It’s pretty cool. In Pensacola, which is down in that area as well, they have over a thousand member.
Ginny: They’re giving over a million dollars a year. This will be their third year in a row giving over a million dollars …
Ginny: Which is crazy. There’re banners up in the streets when they’re doing there membership drive and stuff, the whole community gets excited. When I look at Pensacola, they have over a thousand members, and they serve a half a million people.
Ginny: What an impact. I mean, hence the name, right? What an impact to be able to give a million dollars a year to a community of half a million people, so, just crazy.
Romy: Yeah, that’s really amazing. What do you find when you talk about the dollar amount, the thousand dollar amount as an option?
Ginny: A thousand dollars is an interesting thing because women look at it two ways; one it’s a lot and for some people, yeah, it’s not as much. Most people it’s a lot, but when they realize they get involved, one of the things we didn’t talk about is, each of the women who gives the thousand also then gets a vote in where the money goes at the end of the year. It’s exciting, and they get to be part of the process of vetting all the organizations that put in the applications. They get to vet the application, vet the organizations, so it becomes a real thing to get involved with for the women. They get excited about that. They don’t have to be involved, other than the vote, but they get a chance to be if they want to be, and most of the women want to be. For a thousand dollars, they get to be really involved as well. It’s really exciting.
We’re in that process right now, we’re just starting to get the applications, we’ve gone through the LOI’s, and now we’re getting the applications of the people who made it through the LOI, and so the women are getting excited because we’re going to start vetting out these applications. Getting them involved, for them, that thousand dollars is worth a lot because they win too because they get to learn about the community, learn about who’s out there. What I found in some of the other Impact100s who we’ve talked to, they find some of the women actually jump, and they join the other organizations either as just volunteers or board members because they get excited about something that they see so it’s pretty cool.
Romy: Yeah, it gives you a chance to have exposure to some of the organizations, either a deeper exposure that you didn’t already, maybe made some assumptions or exposure to ones that you wouldn’t have a chance to normally. Always, I find, if you’ve got some capital in the game, you got skin in the game, you’re interest is there, you want to make sure that it’s going to put to use well.
Romy: All right, let’s see. How did it come to be that you guys decided, in Oakland County, that you wanted just to give the one dollar amount, whatever it came to be? You and I talked earlier about as women came aboard, if there were a hundred members it would be a hundred thousand dollars but if it turned out to be a hundred and four, because you had a hundred and four members, how did you walk through that decision matrix of saying, hey we’re just going to give one amount?
Ginny: Well, we called a lot of other Impact100s and talked to their leadership, around the country, to see what they were doing and what they found worked and didn’t work, which is really one of the great things about this organization because you have people who’ve been doing it for years you can talk to. What we found is, if we gave a hundred thousand dollar grant and gave the remaining, let’s say, four thousand or whatever you have to an organization, they may not know exactly how to use it, so it goes back to the stewardship you talked about. We want to be sure the money gets used as best as possible for our community. If upfront, everybody knows what the amount is, we make the announcement and whatever that amount is, this year it happens to be an even one hundred, but if it had been a hundred and four we would’ve made that announcement, and the projects would’ve set their budgets for that. Everything would’ve been spent well in the community and had the greatest impact on our community.
Romy: What kind of follow-up happens after the money is deployed?
Ginny: We haven’t named the director yet but what the other Impact100s do is they name one of our board directors will be in charge of follow-up. We’ll follow up for three years, at least, on the organization we’ve given the money to, to see how it’s going. We’ll invite them back to talk to the members to kind of show what they’ve been doing. When we talked to the other Impacts, both the organization that got the money and the women love that. Love when they come back and say, “Here’s where your money went. Here’s what’s happening with your money.” Because the organizations are as excited as we are about getting the money and about what’s happening. It’s really a win-win for everybody. We all get to feel good about where our money went; we get to see where it went, and you get actually to meet some of the people you helped, so it’s pretty exciting.
Romy: I’m a big lover of what I call the ‘frontline experience,’ I don’t know what else you’d call it, but I love seeing capital go to work and then being able to walk into that organization locally and have some eyeball time with the folks that received it. There’s something about wrapping a relationship around the people connection, in addition to the capital, that’s amazing to me.
Ginny: Absolutely and in some of the Impacts, there are people who have gotten multiple grant awards. Most of the Impacts, and we’ve done the same thing, won’t let you get back-to-back years of awards to make sure that it’s being spread around the community but when they come back and show what they project did, they often develop relationships with these women and yeah, they get another chance in a couple of years to try again and do another project.
Romy: Alright, and I would assume some of them are getting outside support. In the traditional investment world, we call it side pocket, additional money going around the side into the organization.
Romy: It’s probably the same concept with donations, right?
Ginny: Oh. One of the things that some of the organizations do is, at the final awards dinner where we all make the vote, the finalists will come in and give a quick presentation to everybody, and then we vote on who’s going to get the final grant, but one of the things they typically do is also put a paper together on the wants and needs of all of the finalists. If your finalist doesn’t win the big grant, you still see what it is they need to help them. They said it’s amazing how much they get then from these women who go out and organize a group to get them what they need. I like them, they didn’t win, but they still win. At the end of the day, they win, because they get so much exposure.
Romy: Yeah. My little reporting admin bells are getting triggered here; I want to do impact reporting on that.
Ginny: There you go.
Romy: Was there anything that you thought, “Wow, now that’s an interesting outcome that you didn’t see …”
Ginny: Sure. I think I’m going to have even more surprises when we get to the point of really getting into the applications and the grant but in this first year what I’m finding that has shocked me is the young generation and how much they give and how much they’re involved. We have an interesting story on how our board got formed. Myself retired, so not young, and another lady who’s a couple of years younger than me, still working, we got together and decided we should get this started so, of course, when we formed the board we went out to women we know and started gathering some people, so they’re close to our age.
I’ve met some great women I would’ve never met otherwise but then a young lady by the name of Jessi Bell, who had lived in Pensacola, moved up here with her husband, she is very young, has young children, like babies, and she decided she wanted to start an Impact100. I couldn’t imagine I would’ve ever done that at that age, right? It’s just fascinating. She contacted Wendy Steele, and we had already done that so she introduced us, we met up, and now Jessi and some her friends and counterparts are on our board as well. We have this real mix of ages on the board, which is great.
We’re finding this energy among the young people that’s just, the older ones of us talk about it, it’s just amazing. One lady joined, she’s twenty-four I think, barely out of school but she’s willing to put down a thousand dollars because she wants to be part of it and wants to be part of a community and be part of what’s going on. She just moved here about a year ago.
Ginny: It’s fascinating to see how excited and how involved these young people are.
Romy: We field most of the questions about impact investing actually from the millennial demographic. Then I’d say it skips in the middle and then more of the about to be retired or retired. It is extraordinary; it’s most of our calls and emails that come in. I agree with you. Especially the last two years, I’ve noticed an eagerness to get involved with their capital and their time. They want the frontline experience just like I said; they don’t want to send it off to some black hole, and it go through several layers of who’s deciding where it goes. They’re particular that their money has an impact, which they can witness or an accountable reporting on it.
Ginny: Absolutely, they are huge volunteers. Because a lot of the older women are so involved in careers or families that are playing sports and them, just don’t have a lot of time to give. These younger women are finding the time, and it’s amazing to me because, at that age, I think my generation was quite different. Not that we didn’t do anything, but these women are involved, and you’re right, they want to see where their money goes; they want to be part of where the money goes. It’s fascinating because they’re volunteering to help with all the stuff, and not only do they volunteer to help but they really help. They really dig in, and they do a lot of good work.
Romy: Yeah, you reminded me of something else that I’m witnessing with this age group is that they don’t necessarily need the PR or the title there, they don’t need to be the one on camera if you will. They’re willing to be collaborative behind the scenes and get network type stuff done. It’s encouraging to me.
Ginny: I agree. Many of them have careers, and they’re focused on careers, but this is another part of their life that they’re really focused on, that it’s exciting to see how they are. It’s encouraging because you always hear the millennial, they’re lazier, they’re this, you hear these things, but it’s just not the case.
Romy: Okay, well that’s good. I’ll keep going so we capture some of the other elements here. What is a couple of the initiatives that rely on your heart right now? Could you talk about what your goals are and your initiatives for the membership right now?
Ginny: Sure. We got a hundred members we were looking for this year, which we’re really excited about because we didn’t have a lot of time. Next year we’d love to get closer to two hundred or more. We’d love to start to compete with Pensacola and Baldwin County and Cincinnati. We’re starting to, right now, we’ll take applications for 2017, again, it’s going to be a thousand dollars and the full thousand will go to the grant in ’17. Anybody who joins today won’t get to vote on this year’s grant. A hundred women who gave for this year, they’re the only ones who get to vote for this year’s grant, but you’ll get to be able to vote in ’17.
Also by joining now, you’ll get invited to everything we do. We even have social events ongoing, which is one of the benefits here, I think, just meeting the different women at some of these events has been tremendous for me, anyway, and I think for everybody. It’s been really a great side thing on this whole thing just meeting all these people. If you join now you get invited to everything that’s going on, you just simply can’t vote at the end of the year, this year. We’d love to compete up against some of the big guns and really get Oakland County a lot of money.
Romy: How do they sign up? Would they just go to your website, Ginny?
Ginny: Yeah, the best thing is to go to our website which is Impact100OaklandCounty.org. If you go there, everything’s there that you need. We also have an email address which is Impact100OC@gmail.com. People are always welcome to contact me directly, as well. The easiest way to get me is probably on my email which is GinnyFisch@comcast.net. They’re welcome to any of those three ways, and we will get back with them immediately.
Romy: Okay, great. By the way, we’ll put that on the show notes on the website with your episode so they can link through directly. How about the second initiative about projects?
Ginny: This year, because I think there was a lack of time maybe, we probably didn’t get the word out to all the nonprofits in Oakland County, and we’d like to hit everyone and get everybody a chance to apply. Know that in ’17; we’ll be giving out at least one grant of a hundred thousand and hopefully more and so I’d love all the nonprofits to start thinking about what kind of projects they could do in Oakland County that would use that kind of money so that they’re ready to apply next spring. Any nonprofit who has questions can contact us now, and we’ll answer questions, we’ll invite you to events, we’ll let you meet some of the women right now so that you can start to get ready for next year.
Romy: Now, can the applicants apply for any use that goes with their social mission? Could it be for working capital, for example, or does it have to be designated for a specific purpose?
Ginny: We have all the rules, if you will, on our website. We don’t want to give money just to ongoing processes or ongoing operating expenses. What we’re looking for is a project so think a specific project, and it needs to impact, I’m trying to think of the word we use, I think...