Impact Giving Lives Up to its Name


By Robin Pierson, Special to the Independent

With its latest round of grant-making, Impact Giving, a collective giving group established by five Laguna Beach women, announced that it has granted more than $1 million since its inception.

“Eight years ago we didn’t exist and today we have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of lives around the world,” Sam Dawson, Impact Giving’s grants chair, said at its recent gala.

Impact Giving was born amid the recession when local community activists Karen Wilson and Ann Duncan began exploring ways to expand their efforts to help the increasing numbers of people in need. They began considering the idea of pooling resources. Believing the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Wilson and Duncan recruited a few like-minded, philanthropic women “to share thoughts and visions, not knowing where they would go.”

The pair, along with Carol Lindquist, Betsy Gosselin and Susan Marx, met for a year, ultimately creating Impact Giving. “Everyone came on full steam,” said Wilson.

Within a year, mainly through word of mouth, 100 women had joined, each pledging to give $1,000 a year that would be distributed annually to both local and international nonprofits.

Now the group has 150 members and has awarded 59 grants to nonprofits helping to better the lives of people in more than 12 countries. Each “partner” can nominate a nonprofit for consideration. Committees made up of members vet nominees and finalists are voted on by the entire community.

This year Impact Giving awarded $144,000 to six nonprofits, four based in Orange County that tackle homelessness and food insecurity and two that work in Africa providing solar lights and a school in a rural community.

With a $30,000 grant from Impact Giving, Give a Child Life, based in Silverado,  will install 2,000 solar lights -- soda bottles filled with water and bleach -- in windowless huts in Kenya's slums and Maasai communities.
With a $30,000 grant from Impact Giving, Give a Child Life, based in Silverado, will install 2,000 solar lights — soda bottles filled with water and bleach — in windowless huts in Kenya’s slums and Maasai communities.

By gluing empty soda bottles, filled with water and a splash of bleach into a precut hole in a tin roof, “Give a Child Life,” brings light into dark, windowless huts in Kenyan slums and rural Maasai communities. These solar “Mabati” lights are equivalent to 55-watt bulbs. With the $30,000 grant they received this year from Impact Giving, the organization is poised to install 2,000 more “Mabati” bulbs in Kenya’s poorest communities, opening a myriad of possibilities, from cleaner homes to the chance for children to study inside. “Impact Giving gets it that no one should live in darkness,” said special projects director, John Olson, who worked as an attorney in Newport Beach for 30 years before retiring to focus on improving the lives of Kenya’s poorest.

Executive chef Bill Bracken gave up his chef’s hat to put a dent in food insecurity facing nearly one in four children in Orange County. Last year, Bracken’s Kitchen delivered over 40,000 meals to hungry families in his food truck, Betsy. With the $20,000 grant he received, Bracken plans to buy a second food truck, doubling the amount of meals served this year to 80,000.

Also addressing food insecurity in Orange County, Solutions for Urban Agriculture will use it’s $25,000 grant to help convert 4.5 acres in north Orange County into The Giving Farm, a volunteer run farm-to-food bank operation to provide food banks across the county with free, fresh produce.

Nationwide, single women comprise a quarter of the homeless population, yet there are limited services specifically for that segment of the population. The $20,000 grant from Impact Giving will help WISEPlace continue to offer a community of housing and hope to over 100 Orange County women each night, along with new wardrobes, emotional support and job skills.

Families Forward estimates that 26,000 school-aged kids in Orange County are homeless or living in insecure housing situations. The nonprofit will use its $29,000 grant to get homeless families quickly rehoused and to work with them individually to help ensure future economic independence and stable housing for them and their children.

There was no secondary school in a remote area in Tanzania before Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania built one. Only a fraction of the boys in the area left home to continue their education. No girls did. Since IEFT constructed the school, more than half the student population are girls and with the $20,000 grant received, the group will be able to add on another classroom giving more than 50 more students a chance to further their education.

In past years, Impact Giving partners have bought bicycles enabling Cambodian girls to safely get to school, helped pay for urgently needed surgeries for uninsured Orange County residents and provided free wheelchairs and mobility to disabled people in developing countries.

Impact Giving has also funded afterschool programs in Santa Ana, helped former victims of the sex trade in India acquire job skills, and purchased goats in Nepal giving rural women a chance to earn income.

Recently, Impact Giving added the option for women under 40 to join as junior partners for $780 a year or $65 a month. learn more at


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