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Making an impact

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 Such is the annual scene for Impact Oklahoma, the nonprofit organization comprised of communityminded women who donate $1,000 a year to impact the quality of life in Central Oklahoma in five focus areas: family, culture, health and wellness, environment and education.

Then they gather to listen to five nonprofit finalists’ pitches, and decide who will be awarded the funds.

right, Theresa Todd

It’s “The X-Factor” for the good deed crowd. Impact Oklahoma’s membership co-chair, Theresa Todd, said she joined seven years ago because 100 percent of her donation went directly to the selected nonprofits.

“The power of one — one woman, one vote, $1,000 dollars — multiplies into $100,000 grants for nonprofits in Central Oklahoma,” she said.

Unlike most organizations where a staff and board of directors decide how donors’ money is spent, each member of Impact Oklahoma gets an equal say. Based on a strategic grant process beginning each March, eligible nonprofits enter for a specific project, not operational expenses or annual appeals.

As Impact Oklahoma grows — it’s now at 278 members — so does the pot of money given annually. Started in 2003, the organization has the goal of 500 annual members so that each key area can be awarded $100,000 in donations each September.

Since its inception, Impact Oklahoma has awarded $1.5 million in charitable grants, impacting local organizations with 14 $100,000 grants and eight smaller ones. Past beneficiaries have included Calm Waters, YWCA, Girl Scouts, Food for Kids, Boys and Girls Club and many more.

The 2011 awards included:

—$100,000 to the City Rescue Mission to create the Impact Hunger Food Pantry, a grocery store-style food distribution center serving the most impoverished in the community; —$100,000 to NewView Oklahoma to establish a vision clinic that will serve 1,530 patients annually with funds used for the purchase of optometric equipment as well as portable vision assessment; and —$79,500 to Homeless Alliance to expand its program to help more than 200 homeless families.

Todd said one of her most memorable experiences was witnessing two new members — both daughters of current members — be a part of the beauty of philanthropy: “Watching their faces as the night evolved, hearing the stories from the nonprofits and seeing how a simple concept can make an impact to so many in our community.”

For more information, visit impactok.org.

Photo by Mark Hancock

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