How to Give Away $187,000 to Westchester County Nonprofits

This post is by Anita Borkenstein, a 1986 graduate of Binghamton University. Anita is one of the founders of Westchester Impact 100, a giving circle in which member members pursue their philanthropy by pooling resources. Earlier this semester she shared her experience as a philanthropist with students in Professor David Campbell’s course “Philanthropy and Civil Society.” She wrote this post to reflect on her experience as a philanthropist and the surprising challenges we face when deciding how to give away money!

How to Give Away $187,000 to Westchester County Nonprofits

A Good Problem to Have!

I could not believe how well membership recruitment went this year. We convinced 187 women to join (or rejoin) Impact100 Westchester! Membership is $1,000 per person. We pool ALL the money together to make transformational grants to local charities.

Once membership recruitment closes we announce the grant amounts to the NFP community. Last year, our inaugural cycle, we had 132 members; we gave one Project Grant of $100,000 and three Operating Grants of $10,660. All finalists received an award. Our challenge this year, how to distribute $187,000 into Project and Operating Grants? If we implemented last year’s strategy, too much money would be awarded in operating grants when transformational grants are our focus.

What to do? Should we continue to give one Project Grant of $100,000 or make two for a lesser amount? Do we need to stick with our signature award of $100,000 for branding purposes? How much of an Operating Grant should we award to the three finalists; those funds are disbursed with no strings attached.

On a cold day in December, the Executive Board convened in my kitchen to debate the issue and discuss our options. We talked about it all the time during the membership drive, but now it was decision time. Donna came up with the perfect solution, let the members decide!

First we put several options to a vote by the Board of Directors. 18 women had three options to choose from. Then we put the Board’s favorite two options to a membership vote. 145 women out of 187 voted. They decided 60/40 to give two transformational Project Grants of $85,000 each and two Operating Grants of $8,500 each to the finalists. We are DOUBLING THE IMPACT in 2015!