WORDS & PICTURES: Gabrielle Versmessen
Many good things can come from pairing a little wine and some good Italian food together. However, one of the better things to emerge must be the birth of Sisterhood for Good (SFG) at Angela Massaro-Fain’s home 11 years ago.
In 2011, Angela, President of SFG, had been a Board Member of Lakewood Ranch Community Fund (LWRCF) for five years. The LWRCF Board President spoke about a trend in philanthropic giving called Women’s Giving Circles. Angela thought it was a great way to bring women together who could affordably give back to the community. That May, she held a get-together with about 20 other women.
“Over wine and great conversations, we agreed to form this all-female, all-volunteer organization that believed in group philanthropy to help our community. My daughter, Maria-Francesca, came up with the name ‘Sisterhood for Good,’ and we all loved it because it spoke to who we wanted to be. That evening, ten ladies formed the donor-advised fund called ‘Sisterhood for Good’,” she recalls.
Focusing on human services, animal rights, children, the aging, and new moms within Sarasota and Manatee counties, Sisterhood for Good (SFG) will have awarded $206,551 in grants as of this year since its inception in 2011. Making sure that the money goes to local people in need is a huge priority for the women in the Sisterhood.
“We try to keep it more grassroots,” explains Amy Gorman, Chair of the Board for SFG. The vice-Chair of Communications, Laurel Corriveau, describes how it is “absolutely unbelievable” to see what a local organization can do with its grant money. “They can turn $250 into 700 pairs of sneakers or meals or backpacks. That impact is so meaningful to me.”
“On my own, I could never give back in this capacity. But together, we’re able to make a true difference that surmounts anything we could do by ourselves,” Peggy Kronus, SFG Board member, beams.
Tagging on that same sentiment, Graceann Frederico, Chair of Membership, said: “My dollars, along with everybody else’s, you are part of a bigger picture. You’re a thread in that tapestry. You can leave a legacy in the community that you love just by joining Sisterhood for Good.”
Establishing yearly dues as only $225 with a five-year pledge, Angela and the other founding members wanted to make sure that SFG was affordable for women to join and not an exclusive group. Having 200 members and growing each month is a testament to how having an affordable philanthropy group can significantly impact a community.
Out of the $225, $200 goes to SFG’s Annual Grants Program, and $25 goes towards paying for SFG’s insurance, mailbox, registrations with the State, etc. All net proceeds from fundraisers and events also go toward their Annual Grants Program.
Additionally, Sisterhood for Good is 100% run by volunteers. No one is paid a salary or stipend.
“Is it a lot of work? You bet it is. Nothing successful comes from sitting back. It takes a LOT of planning and time. Luckily, I am retired and can devote the time that the organization needs. You couldn’t pay me enough for what I do for free,” Angela jokes. “And I can only say that SFG has the best, most involved, and hardest working Chair of the Board in Amy Gorman. She is truly a partner, helping to lead and execute the vision that is Sisterhood for Good.”
Kathy Collins, one of the original women at Angela’s house that fateful night 11 years ago, raves, “This woman (Angela) dedicates more hours to this organization than probably any executive in the two counties, and she’s retired!”
The women of Sisterhood for Good exude a sense of camaraderie and friendship amongst themselves. Not only do they all have an overwhelming desire to help our local community, but they also want to have fun while doing it. Their events range from happy hour mixers to designer bag bingo to a Vegas-style casino night. Just by attending a happy hour event, which is typically free to attend, and inquiring woman can see just how laid-back, welcoming, and passionate the women of the Sisterhood are as a group.
But Sisterhood for Good doesn’t just distribute grants. They also go out and volunteer in Manatee and Sarasota counties. These volunteer opportunities can be as small as a one-time event where someone just needs their physical help for the day or ongoing volunteer help. Organizations can either contact the Sisterhood, or they’ll put it out there if they need help, and the Sisterhood steps in. One of the things they did last year was a food drive for Manatee Meals on Wheels, which has also been a grant recipient from SFG.
“I joined the Sisterhood because I was looking for an opportunity to give back and volunteer but be able to give to many organizations at the same time rather than just one. This is such a varied group of non-profits that we work with, and it’s the non-profits that I was drawn to because they’re in the ‘secret pockets’ of Manatee and Sarasota counties that don’t really have the opportunity to obtain large dollar funds,” Laurel explained.
What are their future goals for the Sisterhood? Angela smiled: “SFG is still on a growth trajectory, having new members join every month. Women tell us all the time that they ‘love what we do for the community’ and they ‘want to be a part of it.’ We are continuing to ‘grow up,’ and by that, I mean, as SFG has expanded, our Board structure and experience have flourished. Our members also want to be more personally involved in fundraising and volunteering. Members are out more, participating in the community, and proudly representing the Sisterhood for Good brand. My personal goal would be to grow SFG into other counties to form and assist other non-profits that need our help. The logistics of this are not yet on SFG’s Strategic Plan as there is a lot of legal work to research behind the scenes first, but that would be my personal long-term goal.”
Whether or not you’ve heard of Sisterhood for Good, someone you know, or an organization you’ve heard of, has likely been impacted by their giving spirits and fun attitudes. With their reach expanding every year, I feel you’ll be seeing a lot more of the Sisterhood within Manatee County for a long time to come.
If you’re interested in learning more about Sisterhood for Good or finding their next event near you, you can visit sfgflorida.org.