Our History

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 communities 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.

Today, women from across Chicago and the 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.

For more information about how Impact100 started, see our council story.

The Impact100 Model

The Impact100 model is readily available to all communities who wish to implement it. The model is designed to empower women to see themselves as philanthropists and overcome the barriers women have historically faced in this arena. The model is designed for transformational grant-making within local communities, with a minimum grant size of $100,000.

At Least 100 Women
Come Together

Each Woman
Donates $1,000

is donated to a
Local Charity

Focus Areas

We provide nonprofit organizations with grants in increments of at least $100,000 across five broad Focus Areas:

Arts & Culture



Health & Wellness


How it Works

The annual $1,000 donations of Impact100 Chicago members are pooled into a grant fund to be given away to nonprofit organizations in our communities. The number and size of grants awarded are dependent on our membership, but our goal is to give incremental grants of $100,000 each year. Grants are awarded based on a vote of the Impact100 Chicago membership at our annual meeting. Every woman who gives $1,000 or more has one vote.

Board of Directors

Deb Gammon
Reena Saluja
Secretary & Governance Director
Tracy Leiser
Treasurer & Membership Accounting Director
Pragna Patel
Membership Director
Kristi Ewing
Membership Director
Sue Key
Grant and Financial Review Committee Director
Kathy Froehlich
Technology Director
Gina Turner
Communications Director
Deb Armstrong
Corporate Sponsorship Director
Mindy Winkel
Nonprofit Outreach Director
Patsy Gnadt
Events Director