Our History

Our Beginning

It began with a phone call.

Marybeth Lernihan had just returned from visiting a friend in Cincinnati, Ohio, who was president of an organization called Impact 100. Marybeth was intrigued with the simple, effective concept of an all-volunteer women’s organization that collectively pooled its members’ $1,000 contributions to fund high-impact $100,000 grants to local nonprofits. Even more intriguing was the women’s intimate involvement in the decision making; working together to determine which worthy organization they would support; building connections to their community and each other in the process. Marybeth immediately called her friends Nonie Brown and Michele Polvere and ran the idea past them. They loved the idea and in 2010, Impact 100 Chicago was born.

We are one of at least 48 independent organizations around the world who have modeled the concept of Impact 100, which was started in Cincinnati in 2001.

Impact 100 Chicago Today

Women from across Chicago’s city and suburbs (including Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties) make up Impact 100 Chicago’s membership. Since its 2010 inception, Impact 100 Chicago has awarded more than $2.5 million in high-impact grants to local nonprofits, while empowering women to improve lives through philanthropy.