Tears flowed at a ceremony in June, when a group of women business owners and senior executives gathered to disburse checks to nonprofits.
The women-powered organization, Lakewood Ranch-based Sisterhood for Good, is in its fourth year of giving out money to a bevy of groups, and its sixth year overall. Several of the group's chosen charities bring out raw emotions.
This day included a $1,000 grant to the Mark Wandall Foundation, which provides support and assistance to grieving children who have lost a family member or guardian. The organization's founder, and widow of the namesake, was there to receive the check. Yvonne Schloss, a Sisterhood for Good co-founder and owner of Sunglass Express Optical on St. Armands Circle, admits she wiped away tears most of the ceremony. She wasn't the only one.
“When you get to present a check in person, you realize how much we help people,” says Schloss. “It really means a lot to me.”
Schloss' experience with Sisterhood for Good is shared by many of the other 54 members of the giving circle — all of whom have committed to donating at least $1,000 over five years. The purpose of a giving circle is to pool money from multiple donors, then find worthy causes to receive the funds.
Sabal Palm Bank Senior Vice President Kathy Collums, another Sisterhood co-founder, says the group's strength lies in scale. That helps bring up the total it can donate, and it also helps find more potential organizations, through the power of connections. “We are really at the forefront of giving circles. We have become our own version of a United Way,” says Collums. “The ultimate impact is we are able to give back to groups where we know the need is most immediate.”
Schloss and Collums are two of 10 women who founded Sisterhood for Good. The idea came from Angela Massaro-Fain, founder of Lakewood Ranch-based PR and adverting firm Grapevine Communications. She had been on the board of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund, which is where she first learned about a women's giving circle.
Massaro-Fain held a Sisterhood launch party at her home in 2011 that, in addition to forming the giving circle, included “a lot of wine,” she says. The women settled on some rules. For one, while many women's giving circles nationally are limited to 10 people, they would not impose any size limits in Sisterhood for Good.
The financial requirements would be at least $200 a year for five years, which could be paid in full, $1,000, in year one. A third, and important role, notes Massaro-Fain, is the fund allocation process is democratic so all members have an equal vote and say on what groups get the money.
A goal for the group is to reach 100 members, which Massaro-Fain projects will happen in a few years, given the group's momentum. “I love our organization,” Massaro-Fain says. “We raise money while having fun, enjoying each other's company and are rewarded each year by being able to provide grants to well-deserving local nonprofits.”
Several Sisterhood members, including the co-founders, long ago surpassed the $1,000 minimum and have stuck around to give more. (After the first $1,000 there is no minimum requirement.)
Executives: Kathy Collums, senior vice president and co-founder of Sabal Palm Bank; Denise Drizos; Kathy Durfee, TechHouse; Jennifer Grondahl, CFRE and president at Maestro Strategic Development & Marketing; Ruth Harshman, mediator at Impact Mediation/Fair Divorce; Stephanie Hefner-Roth, owner/practitioner at Center for Counseling and Mediation Services; Violeta Huesman, director of student services and graduate placement at Keiser University; Wanda Martinetto, Realtor, Keller Williams; Angela Massaro-Fain, retired/former owner at Grapevine Communications; and Yvonne Schloss, owner, Sunglass Express Optical.
Organization: Sisterhood for Good women's giving circle.
Mission: To “celebrate the power of women to raise funds for a variety of charitable causes.”
Giveback: Group has awarded more than $13,000 in grants to various groups in the Sarasota-Bradenton region since 2013, including $6,550 in 2017.