Making an Impact

Impact 100 Garden State Empowers Women to Become Major Philanthropists for Nonprofits Serving Their Communities

The concept is simple, but powerful: One woman makes a $1,000 contribution, which is then multiplied by 100 other women’s donations to award a $100,000 grant to a nonprofit in their community. 

That’s the philosophy behind Impact 100, a volunteer-run organization founded in 2001 to empower women to become philanthropists and make a direct difference in their community. Since its inception, it has expanded to 60 chapters worldwide — including Impact 100 Garden State, which was launched in 2013 and serves Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Union counties. 

To date, Impact 100 Garden State has awarded over $2 million in grants.

“There are a lot of small grants available to these nonprofits, but few that are transformative like these,” says Debby Seme, Impact 100 Garden State president and Martinsville resident.

With a yearly $1,000 donation, women can become members. 100% of the donation goes directly to grant recipients — other donations and sponsors cover administrative fees. This year, membership soared to 341 women, allowing the organization to award $100,000 grants to three nonprofits: Cornerstone Family Programs, Homeless Solutions Inc. and Zufall Health Center. Impact 100 Garden State contributed some of their administrative savings to the $41,000 remaining to award $15,000 merit grants to four finalists: Bonnie Brae, Caring Contact, Family Promise and Norwescap.

Debby stresses that they do not simply write checks for $100,000.

She explains, “To get the funds, the grant recipients sign a contract with us, set milestones to achieve over the three years they have to complete their grant-funded program and show evidence of progress."

Each fall, volunteers reach out to about 800 area nonprofits in five focus groups — children and family; education; health and wellness; environment preservation and recreation; arts and culture — and invite them to submit applications for a specific program.

Grant review and financial review committees vet applications to narrow the list to 15 semi-finalists, which then receive site visits (virtually this year). From these, seven are chosen to give presentations to members who then vote for their choice at an awards meeting.

“Organizations have to show that their program will be transformational and sustainable,” Debby says. “It’s an emotional experience when we give out the awards; we all get choked up.”

For more information, visit or email (member inquiry) or (nonprofit inquiry).

2020 Winners

Non-Profit: Cornerstone Family Programs/Morristown Neighborhood House

Program: Teen Pathways to Brighter Futures

A subsidiary of Cornerstone Family Programs, Morristown Neighborhood House provides services that enhance the educational and social development of Morristown teens from low-income, minority and immigrant families. Staff at the house, which becomes a second home to these youth, mentor the teens and help them get their first job and learn workforce skills and pursue college or vocational school.

The grant will be used to fund Teen Pathways to Brighter Futures, a work-based earn-and-learn program at Morristown Neighborhood House that is a pathway out of poverty for these low-income, minority youth. The skills they learn will set them on the road to personal, academic and economic success through mentorship, guidance and a commitment to their futures to help them realize their full potential.

Nonprofit: Homeless Solutions Inc.

Program: “Next Level” Shelter Expansion Project

Since 1983, Homeless Solutions’ mission has been helping the homeless and working poor by offering shelter, services and supportive housing. Today, it provides shelter for 25 homeless men, 10 homeless women, 10 families and 20 Safe Haven guests, who receive services including case management, transportation to work, money management and employment assistance, housing search assistance and daily living skills training. 

It will use this grant to support its “Next Level” Shelter Expansion Project, which will renovate the ground floor of its emergency shelter and improve the lives of its guests. The expansion of its dining hall and kitchen, a new multipurpose space for a Warming Center, along with its recently completed Alcohol & Drug Counseling Center will further reduce homelessness.

Nonprofit: Zufall Health Center

Program: Mobile Meals for Dover Families in Need

Founded as a volunteer, free clinic 30 years ago, Zufall Health Center provides healthcare services to 40,000 patients across six counties in northern and central New Jersey. Zufall’s mission is to provide access to quality, affordable and culturally competent healthcare to communities that experience barriers to care. The organization will use the grant to purchase a food truck outfitted with appropriate equipment to distribute prepared meals to underserved children in Dover during the summer. The grant also will increase access to fresh, local produce and nutrition education for low-income families throughout the year. Through this initiative, Zufall aims to improve food security and health outcomes among needy communities with enhanced access to mobile meals.

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