Originally inspired by Impact 100, Many Hands has evolved over time to meet the interests and needs of our members and our region.
Our story began in January 2003 with the publication of a People Magazine article about the founding of Impact 100. Former banker Wendy Steele (then Hushak) launched Impact 100 in Cincinnati with a simple idea: “If 100 women would each donate $1,000, we would then have $100,000 to give to the community.” From the start, she had two goals: to open up philanthropy to ordinary women, by combining their efforts to multiply their impact, and to make a significant difference in their community, by making large-scale grants.
Impact 100 awarded its first grant to a dental clinic serving low-income patients in 2002. Since then, Impact 100 Cincinnati has directed more than $5 million to organizations in greater Cincinnati, northern Kentucky, and eastern Indiana, and the Impact 100 movement has become an important force in collective giving, with more than 50 chapters in the United States and Australia.
Inspired by Steele’s vision, in 2003, Bethesda resident Susie Berenson rallied six like-minded women–Sydney Bath, Ana Collins, Regina Hall, Leslie Lawley, Betsy Marmet, and Madeleine Said–to become the founding Board members of Many Hands, which was granted 501(c)3 status in early 2004. In its first year, the Board raised $108,000 while also seeking prospective grantees serving women and children in three focus areas: education, health, and housing.
Many Hands made its first $100,000 grant in 2004 to Our Place DC, a nonprofit that helped women who had been in the criminal justice system obtain housing and other services. Two other organizations–Mary’s Center, which provides healthcare, education, and social services to low-income Washington-area residents, and Heads Up, a provider of out-of-school-time programs for low-income students in DC–each received $4,000.
From 2004 to 2012, Many Hands made biennial grants in three areas–education, health, and housing. In 2014, we added a fourth focus area, job readiness. Two years later, recognizing both the scope of the challenges facing our region and the depth of philanthropic interest in our community, we decided to raise funds and make grants annually. Since then, the total amount awarded in grants has continued to rise year over year, reaching $317,500 in 2021.
Over the same period, we have focused on diversifying our membership. In 2016, we formed a Membership Committee to organize education events open to the entire community. Our popular panel discussions and book events, on topics ranging from gentrification in DC to mass incarceration and the long-term effects of childhood trauma–have helped us reach a broader cross-section of our community while providing more opportunities for members to learn and interact both with one another and with nonprofit leaders. In addition, our Young Member program, introduced in 2018, has made Many Hands more accessible to women below 35.
As we look to the future, we are deeply grateful for the generosity of all our contributors and partners and strongly committed to continuing to grow and evolve to better support our mission and members.