Empowerment Through Collaboration: Joan Sabatino

Joan Sabatino of Lake Forest founded 100 Women Making A Difference.

This nonprofit organization is made up of philanthropic circles of women who donate at least $1,000 a year to fund college scholarships for girls, and other charitable causes voted on by their group.

100 W describes itself as “a unique way for women who are philanthropically minded to give back and make meaningful contributions to their local communities without adding to the already hectic demands of their day-to-day lives, family and work.”

With her typical candor and charm, Sabatino describes 100 W even more succinctly, “This group is for women who no longer want to spend their volunteer efforts choosing napkin colors, asking for silent auction items and selling raffle tickets.”

The 100 W concept is elegantly simple. Through collaboration with other like-minded women, each woman’s donation of $1,000 or more becomes part of a significant pool, which is thoughtfully and person- ally awarded by the group each year. Meetings are minimal and nonmandatory; there are just enough social opportunities—like a fall recruiting luncheon at a local club, evening cocktail party with spouses and spring awards dinner—to allow new friendships to form.

A blonde, blue-eyed, can-do dynamo who resembles Reese Witherspoon, Sabatino launched the first 100 W group in New Jersey in 2008. When she and her husband moved back to the North Shore in 2010, she launched this area’s 100 W soon thereafter. Friends of Sabatino recently started the newest 100 W chapter in Orange County, Calif. Women in other states also have expressed an interest in starting their own 100 W groups.

Last year’s North Shore group awarded a scholarship of $10,000 a year, for up to four years, to Emily Andre of Antioch, allowing her to attend American University. They also funded Holy Family Food Pantry Youth Garden Project, A Safe Haven, Lambs Farm, NICASA, Lake County Haven and Our House of Hope K-9 Rescue.

To date, the 100 W groups have awarded scholarships to six young women. Each 100 W group stays in close contact with their scholarship recipients, maintaining personal, supportive ties. So it isn’t a surprise that some of the winners are already looking for ways to “pay it forward” through participation in their own 100 W-like groups, too.

There is zero overhead cost for these 501c3 organizations. The Sabatinos assume all expenses. From her passionate comments, it’s clear that 100 W is a labor of great love for someone who enthusiastically believes in the collaborative power of women. Her vision empowers busy women to become significant philanthropists and allows talented young women to achieve educational dreams.