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Winning With Women Wednesday: An Interview With Deirdre Spiropoulos, Co-Founder & President of Impact 100 Jersey Coast

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Deidre Spiropoulos

Deirdre Spiropoulos is Co-Founder and President of Impact 100 Jersey Coast. Deirdre graduated from Villanova University in 1999 with degrees in Spanish and International Business. Upon finishing her studies she relocated to Madrid, Spain where she worked as an English language consultant teaching business English to multinational executives.  In 2001, she joined Prudential’s Leadership Development Program where she rotated across various business units while pursuing her Masters of Business at NYU Stern school of business. In 2007, she became a Director focusing on succession planning and compensation design for executives and sales teams across Prudential’s international businesses. In 2010, she left Prudential to focus on raising a family and volunteering in her community. 

She is an active board member of the Hayden’s Heart foundation, a New Jersey-based nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and improving the lives of families whose children are suffering from congenital heart defects. She is also a proud committee member of the Rumson St. Patrick’s Day Parade and recently finished a three-year term on the board of her local Newcomers Club. 

Deirdre is a firm believer in the notion of “to whom much is given, much is expected” and finds great fulfillment in uniting with other like-minded women to impact positive change in her community.  She resides in Fair Haven with her husband, George and three young children.

Get to Know Deirdre

1. Why did you feel the need to start the Impact 100 Jersey Coast? Where did the idea come from?

As a former working professional turned stay at home mom, I had been searching for the best way to utilize my time and talents to make a positive difference in my community. With three little ones at home, my time was limited. I had volunteered on occasion with a few local causes, but I hadn’t yet found my place in the community.

When I learned about the Impact 100 model I instantly felt compelled to bring this initiative to Monmouth County. I was struck by the uniqueness of the model: the notion of a giving circle, where women come together to collectively pool our resources to make a large transformative grant to a deserving local nonprofit. I loved that 100% of our member’s donations would go to fund the grant and that the only fundraising involved is the annual membership donation of $1,000. Another unique attribute, which I believe distinguishes Impact 100 Jersey Coast from the other charity initiatives, is our hands-on approach to giving. We offer all members the opportunity to participate in the grant review process and ultimately vote to determine the grant recipient in that given year. And last but not least, I champion the idea of bringing women together to make a significant impact in a way we could not have otherwise, as separate individuals. Uniting Women, Impacting Communities is our tagline and that’s exactly what Impact 100 is setting out to do.

2. Were there any individuals who impacted your decision in creating the Impact 100 Jersey Coast organization? If so, who were they and how did they impact you?

Upon researching Impact 100 I found there was a chapter located in Northern New Jersey (Impact 100 Garden State). I immediately emailed the President and arranged a lunch where I could learn more about Impact Garden State and their experience launching the group. I met with the Membership Chair and President and was impressed by their professionalism and how they spoke eloquently about why Impact 100 is a powerful and transferable philanthropy model. Having started their group just three years prior, they spoke openly about their experience and were encouraging about starting a group in Monmouth County. I was inspired by their desire to collaborate and offer materials and other key resources, which is what ultimately facilitated my decision to take the next step.

My professional background up to that point was purely corporate. Therefore, I thought it would be wise to partner with someone who had knowledge of the Nonprofit landscape in Monmouth County and/or a background in grants. That’s when I thought of Heather Burke. Though I had only met Heather a few times, our husbands had become friends and they had discussed our mutual desire to get more involved in our community while also leveraging our background and professional experiences. Upon discussing the Impact concept and start-up idea with Heather over a casual lunch, she affirmed it was a viable idea and accepted my offer to partner together to bring Impact 100 (name TBD at the time) to fruition. I count my lucky stars that Heather said yes, otherwise Impact Jersey Coast may never have happened.

3. What are 3-5 things you feel is necessary to do in order to be successful in the current role you are in?

1) Identify a strong leadership team with expertise in the areas necessary to make Impact 100 successful.

2) Empower said people to execute their role with the necessary information and resources. Identify and remove any obstacles in their path.

3) Have fun and enjoy building relationships with women from all different ages and backgrounds.

4) Be a good listener and people reader. Technically, I am the leader of the organization but I have a lot to learn from the leadership team as well as current and prospective members.

5. What do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment to this point in your career?

With regards to Impact 100, my greatest accomplishment was on Feb 17th when we reached our goal of 100 members. At that point we had 5 remaining weeks of our membership drive so it was instant validation that Impact Jersey Coast was not only meant to be- but that we were on our way to becoming a powerful force with an established foothold in the region.

6. If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? Or if you had to live your life over again, what’s one thing you would change?

At this point I wouldn’t change a thing because the puzzle pieces have all come together. However, 15 years ago I would have changed everything. I felt very torn and unfulfilled working for a corporation. My heart had always been in nonprofit because I wanted my hard work to serve a higher purpose of helping others and making the world a better place. Both my parents had fulfilling careers; my father working as a Director in the Peace Corps and my mother a social worker helping AIDS patients and elderly through the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA). I just assumed I would follow their path of helping others as a profession upon graduating college. My father was the one who encouraged me to take business classes at Villanova and later enter a corporate training program and defer the nonprofit track. His reasoning was, “the nonprofit world will always be there. Acquire the technical skills and structured on the job experience and then you will be truly valuable to a nonprofit organization”. So I took the leap, weathered what often felt like a frustrating and unfulfilling path, and ultimately found my groove in a challenging and stimulating international role at Prudential. Father certainly knows best on this one because I firmly believe it was my 10-year business experience along with my MBA training that gave me the confidence and skill set to launch Impact 100 Jersey Coast.

7. What do you feel is one of the biggest advances in your industry over the past five years?

My industry is philanthropy. A major advance to date has been the growing trend of giving circles, where members pool their money to make grants to local nonprofit groups, realizing that one large contribution can have an immediate influence in a community. Women specifically are contributing to the inception and growth of the giving circle movement given their ever-expanding philanthropic potential through earnings, marriage, and inheritance.

8. What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?

Leaving my career after my first child was born was a very difficult decision. I was conflicted about leaving the promising career I had built and was apprehensive about intellectually isolating myself by choosing to stay home with what quickly went from one to three little ones.

However, one aspect that gave me peace in my decision was I knew there would be more chapters to write. That I would have an opportunity re-create myself and pursue my other passions. Fast forward six years and along came the next chapter… Impact 100 Jersey Coast!

9. What organizations/affiliations do you belong to that have really helped surround you with other successful women?

I’ve participated in various women’s forums and networking groups throughout my career (including mommy & me playgroups, from which I’ve learned a ton!). These groups were all valuable and insightful for multiple reasons. However, my involvement with the Impact 100 organization is the pinnacle of inspiring and successful women coming together to share their time, talents and treasure… all for a greater good. One of my favorite aspects of Impact is the notion of a level playing field. We pride ourselves on “One member, One donation, One vote”. This reduces any politics or power struggles because we are all coming together for the same reason; to make an impact in a way we could not have otherwise, as separate individuals.

10. Have you had mentors in your career along the way? If so, what was one of the core messages you had received from him/her?

My mother is perhaps my ultimate mentor and role model. She worked hard to earn her Masters in Social Work and managed to balance her career while always being fully present and prioritizing our family. She is an amazing listener and taught me the importance of empathy. 22 years ago, without thinking twice she gave her kidney to her brother, which extended his life by 15 years. She embodies Christian values in a very ordinary, yet remarkable way. One of the highlights of this year was when my mother joined our inaugural group. She promised it was not because I was the President, but instead because she believed in the mission and wanted to take part in a powerful force for change in her community.

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