Katharine Sachs Lumby and Steviann Martines are the co-presidents of Impact Fairfield County (Impact FFC), an incredible charitable organization founded in 2015 by Wendy Block and Vicki Craver. The innovative Impact model brings together 100+ women in a community to pool funds, to give meaningful donations to local nonprofits; there are now 60 chapters nationwide. Since launching, Impact FFC has distributed over $1 million in grant funding right here in Fairfield County. We spoke to Katharine and Steviann about the power of Impact in our community!
Can you please share a bit about yourself?
Katharine: I live in North Stamford with my husband Scott, my son Charleston (Charlie) Lumby, who is 4.5 years old and in PK at GCDS and Baxter Lumby, who is 3 years old, and in Nursery at GCDS. Both kids are in-person learning at GCDS, with our fingers crossed that the amazing teachers, staff and all the families can manage to stay healthy and stay in school! The kids have shown such resilience in their first week of school with masks and understanding social distancing; it’s been amazing to see the joy they have being back at school and seeing friends, while also heart wrenching to see that this is what the world looks like for these kids right now.
Steviann: I have three boys, ages 12, 10 and 6 and live in Old Greenwich. My kids are all in person five days at Old Greenwich School and Eastern Middle School, and I hope we can keep it that way! I second everything Katharine said – it’s both amazing and heart wrenching to see.
What was your background prior to joining Impact?
Katharine: I joined Impact FFC 5 years ago. Prior to my involvement, I had a career in Events & Public Relations. After graduating college, I lived in Aspen, CO for five years. A season of chasing the best powder fields quickly changed to how do I live here long term. I worked for a few nonprofit organizations working on capitol campaigns, media relations, and events. During that time, I met my Australian husband, and after five years in the mountains, we packed up and moved to Sydney, Australia. In Sydney, I focused on my PR & Events career working for a leading agency focused on high-end luxury brands. I managed clients Ferrari, Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, some of the city’s finest restaurants and celebrity chefs for all of Australia and New Zealand’s markets. In 2013, Scotty and I moved back to the States, and I decided to adjust my career focus on Events. I worked with Bronson Van Wyck of Van Wyck & Van Wyck in NYC, a leading event planner, and then worked with Billy Evers of Billy Evers Creative. Now, I find myself freelancing events, helping my mother with her interior design and art consulting business, being the most hands on mom I can be to my two wild toddlers, and now leading Impact, a non-profit that has weaved into my life so quickly and seamlessly. It is an organization that has moved me from the very first conversation I had learning about it, and has only found me investing more of myself and more of my time ever since. I have met incredible women, seen and been a part of transformational change locally, volunteered with organizations I never knew, and been awestruck by the disparity that exists in our county.
Steviann: I grew up in South Jersey and went to Rutgers University. I started in the corporate sector in NYC after college and then moved into nonprofit work after a few years. My first nonprofit role was in program development and fundraising at Jacob Riis Settlement House in Long Island City, Queens placed in the largest low income housing community in the country. Next, I worked with Youth, I.N.C. in NYC providing fundraising coaching, board development and managing a grantmaking program. I spent many years there until I moved to CT and took a few years to stay at home full time with my children. I got involved with the Greenwich United Way and started volunteering in direct service capacities. When I found Impact FFC, they were just wrapping up their first year of programming. I attended their first Annual Meeting and knew right away that this was the right next step me – it was exactly how I wanted to get involved in the community.
Impact has a unique model. Can you share a bit more about it for those who aren’t yet familiar?
Katharine: Impact FFC is a collective giving circle. Membership is done on an annual basis. To become a member, you need to be a woman, and reside in Fairfield County. You agree to give a $1,000 contribution, which 100% of goes back out to the local nonprofits in the forms of $100,000 transformational grants that year. (100 women, $1000 each, gives us $100,000 grant). Some women generously offer to give an additional gift to help run our overhead, which we strive to run efficiently and responsibly. With that $1000 contribution you have a wide array of options. You can join and not take on any active roles if your schedule or life does not allow, all while feeling great that your $1000 will go to a well-deserving local nonprofit that has been prevetted and reviewed by a large amount of the membership. You can join, and chose to be a part of a review committee to review the Non Profit grant applications of the organization vying for the $100,000 grant. (No experience necessary! You go through a training on how to review a grant application, while also training you to find an applicant that aligns with our mission). Or you can join and volunteer on one off tasks. The options are endless, and can be flexible. There is a role for whatever you are after, and most importantly, you can be a part of helping change the lives of local residents in ways you could not imagine.
Steviann: In summary, it is a women’s collective giving circle uniting women from all over Fairfield County by pooling funds to make larger, transformational grants to local nonprofits. Our motto is one woman, one donation, one vote. Every woman makes a $1,000 donation and gets one vote at the Annual Meeting in May where we decide which organizations to invest in.
How do you choose which organizations receive your grants/funding?
Katharine: As mentioned above, once joining, all members have the option to join a Review Committee or Financial focused Review Committee. Last year we had nearly 100 members opt to partake in this role, of the 243 members we had in 2019-2020. These review committees work in cohorts and narrow down the applicants. Each review committee puts one applicant forward for our annual meeting in May. At this meeting, every member has 1 vote (whether you were a part of the process of not). Each organization has 10 minutes to present their case to the membership, and right then and there, membership votes on the winner. For the last two years, we had over 200 members and were able to give out 2 $100,000 grants! A morning not to be missed.
Steviann: We receive applications each fall from organizations from all over Fairfield County After confirming the organizations applying are eligible (eligibility requirements are on our website), our members serve on Review Committees and we leave it up to them to review the applications! We guide our members with criteria for evaluation, and women come together to decide on which organizations to advance in the process. Ultimately the whole membership is invited to vote on which finalists to invest in.
How has COVID impacted what Impact is focused on?
Katharine: COVID has clearly affected everyone and every organization/business. At Impact, I would say it has affected our in-person gatherings the most. A big piece of Impact FFC is getting to know other like-minded women, having thought-provoking conversations, feeling connected to a community. In March 2020, we had to pivot like so many other organizations. From the feedback we have received however, we have done an incredible job of moving things virtual, still offering small in-person gatherings where possible, and creating a new program called Impact Xtra, which are unique events/gatherings for members that can be curated for smaller groups and still provide interaction and community. With regards to our grants and giving, the need has only become more real. Nonprofits need us more than ever. The more women we can get to learn about Impact and join this effort, the more money we can give, and the more impact and change we can create.
Steviann: The pandemic has, of course, shaped our mindset and how we do our work, but it has not changed our mission. Katharine stated it well here – our work is even more important, and we are working hard to recruit more members so we can give out more money!
How can people get involved?
Katharine: JOIN! If you are a woman, live in Fairfield County, and want to learn about philanthropy, grant giving, local nonprofits across so many different focuses, learn about the real disparity and need in this county, Impact FFC is for you! Join us!
Steviann: Any woman from Fairfield County can join simply by going on our website and becoming a member. Each member gives a $1,000 donation which is pooled to make $100,000 grants to local nonprofits. We are hosting several events this fall where women can learn about our work!
What is next for Impact?
Katharine: Immediately, we are in our Fall membership push. Membership closes December 31 for members to join, who want to be a part of the review process, so getting the word out about the organization, about our work, about the true need is our focus. Last year, our fifth year of giving, we met our goal of giving out 2 $100,000 grants, provided $44,000 to our 4 finalists, and in addition gave a $50,000 5 Year Anniversary Grant focused on Core Mission, all of which helped us to accomplish giving over $1m out to Fairfield County nonprofits in our first 5 years of giving.
My hope is that even in these trying, unknown, and often scary, times we can get 200 women to see and want to be a part of making an Impact in our local community this year. In 5 years, we will be crossing our 10 year mark as a nonprofit organization. I hope that we have a growing membership, that we are able to give another large Anniversary Grant, that we have accomplished giving to all nonprofit focus areas, and that Impact FFC is a common name amongst the county as an organization that has and is continuing to make an impact.
Steviann: We are currently focused on getting through this pandemic by providing meaningful opportunities for women to network and give back. We hope to give another TWO $100,000 grants in 2021. In five years, I hope most women across Fairfield County know about us, and we have a self-sustaining organization with even more professional, smart women volunteering to help run the organization which is 100% volunteer run!
How has the Greenwich community supported you?
Katharine: The two founders of Impact FFC were and still are Greenwich residents. From the beginning, our core has been in Greenwich. But our hopes and aspirations to continue to grow our membership up the line maintains to be a focus. My hope is we can have representation from all towns in Fairfield County by our 10 year mark. But Greenwich has always been a huge part of who we are. The media has supported us, local restaurants have offered us spaces, the town has opened its libraries and town hall to our meetings. As we continue to expand to various towns, our hope is that we will be represented all across the County.
Steviann: In so many ways but mainly by women joining as members and helping us spread the word about our work!
What separates Impact from other community organizations?
Katharine: Firstly, we are a collective giving circle for women. In a time where women continue to struggle to make their mark, have a voice, be a leader, and be respected, Impact helps to provide all of those things to our members. I have been told over and over again from members who have been a part of smaller giving circles, who have then joined Impact, how amazed they are at our due diligence, our focus, our attention to details, our in-depth analysis of the organizations that are applying to receive the grants. We have said from the beginning, if we are giving $100,000 to an organization, we want to be sure they can handle and execute the use of it in the manner they are proposing, and in turn, can then sustain the program or project beyond our funds. Impact FFC is not about galas or lavish events, but about the true core of bringing money in to put as many dollars back out as we can.
Steviann: We are entirely volunteer run. Our members come from all over Fairfield County, from all ages and from all backgrounds. We have a very extensive due diligence process and a great relationship with our grantees. Getting a grant from Impact FFC helps our grantees receive recognition and exposure. So often we are told it is a launching point for the organization to get to the next level of growth.
This year, more than ever, our nonprofit community really needs us. I encourage you to get involved in the community and give back if you can. Impact Fairfield County is a great way to do that, but if it is not the right fit for you, joining a board of an organization you are passionate about is also a great way to give back. I hope you will join us at one of the upcoming information sessions to learn more about us and our plans for 2020-2021.
Impact Fairfield County has upcoming Virtual Info Sessions via Zoom on 10/7 at 9:30 am and 10/8 at 7:30 pm to learn more about Impact and ask questions. In addition, we will be hosting monthly info sessions via Zoom on 10/20 (Meet The Founders of Impact FFC this night!), 11/17 and 12/8.