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East County Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021 10 months ago

Charity Snapshot: Full Circle

Sisterhood For Good, which began as a women’s giving circle, has far eclipsed its origins.
by: Eric Snider Contributor

In spring 2011, 25 or so well-heeled women sat in a living room sipping wine, eating hors d’oeuvres and trying to come up with a name for their newly minted giving circle. “We were brainstorming ideas for a name,” recalls Angela Massaro-Fain, the group’s founding member and current president. “My daughter, who was around 15 at the time, blurts out, ‘How about Sisterhood for Good?’ And everyone thought it was great.”

Today her daughter, Maria-Francesca Massaro-Guglielmo, now 25, is one of 177 sisters doing plenty of good in the Sarasota-Manatee community. SFG is one of six women’s giving circles that are part of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund.

SFG’s core concept is simple: Each member commits to contributing annual membership dues of $200 (plus a $25 organization fee) for five years. That money accrues and is then distributed to local charities, with each member getting an equal say regarding the allocations. Members are free to leave the group at any time, but most stay on beyond their five years.

Sisterhood For Good has far transcended its giving-circle beginnings, though. The organization now holds periodic happy hours and a few lively fundraisers per year. Designer Handbag Bingo in 2019, for instance, cost the Sisters $1,500 out of pocket and brought in $15,832. Last year’s Spring Sensations Fashion Show, held just days before the COVID-19 shutdown, cost about $12,000 to produce and generated $32,000. In January of this year, Vegas Comes to the Ranch, held at the Sarasota Polo Club, raised $25,000. 

Sisterhood for Good President and founding donor Angela Massaro-Fain

“Our revenue stream is basically two-fold: membership dues and fundraisers, although we do get the occasional donation,” Massaro-Fain says. “One hundred percent of our net revenue goes to charity. Not one person is paid — no salaries or stipends.”

Additionally, Massaro-Fain wrote a cookbook, “Baccio di Cucina,” from which all proceeds go to the organization.

Along with the giving, Sisterhood For Good engages in other charitable activities. It ran a food drive for Meals on Wheels during the month of July. 

In 2018, Sisterhood For Good incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Each member gets an equal vote on what nonprofits receive grants, which generally range from $1,000 to $3,500. Organizations submit applications on the SFG website, asking for a specific amount of money and explaining what it will be used for — which must be a program, not a capital project. The grant committee narrows the pool down to qualified applicants. This year there were 78.

Through a multistage online voting process, the members choose the recipients, with each charity receiving the specific amount it requested. This year, 20 nonprofits got money from a pot of $44,500. They include Feeding Empty Little Tummies Inc., Resilient Retreat, Sarasota County Teen Court, The Players Inc., Southeastern Guide Dogs, Girls Inc. of Sarasota County and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

Massaro-Fain, 62, grew up in an Italian family in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and started in marketing/advertising at age 18. She founded and ran an agency in Montreal for 10 years, building it to the point where she sold it to a publicly traded company. After her three-year buyout agreement ended, Massaro-Fain tried retirement at age 42 — and failed.

She moved to Lakewood Ranch in 1998, met and married John Fain, and together they established Grapevine Communications in early 2002. They grew it into one of the largest full-service advertising, marketing and public relations firms in the Sarasota-Bradenton region. In 2017, the Massaro-Fains sold Grapevine Communications to one of their media partners. Angela and John decided to retire. This time it stuck.

Massaro-Fain has brought her business experience to Sisterhood For Good, including goal-setting. Aiming for 100 members by year 10, the group reached that milestone in eight. The original goal was to give away $10,000 in year five. SFG reached $12,000 by year two.

“Like any business, we are one of growth and expansion,” she says. “While we are a nonprofit, we have to make money. We need to make money in order to give it away.”

SFG has a sophisticated organizational matrix, with a board of directors — chaired by Amy Gorman, a very hands-on member — an advisory board and several committees. Only three members are retirees.

“We have women in their mid-20s up into their 40s and 50s,” Massaro-Fain says. “Like any other organization, we want to attract a younger demographic, so as we grow older, younger people will continue to bring enthusiasm to the organization.”

Members range in involvement, from those who write an annual check and attend an event or two to a handful of diehards who spend considerable time and effort on the nonprofit. They include Peggy Kronus, chair of fundraising events; Graceann Frederico, board secretary; Tracy Wolfe, board vice chair; and Kathy Collums, chair of finance.

Although Sisterhood For Good is an all-woman organization, it is secular and apolitical. Spouses and significant others are welcome to lend a hand and attend events. “We’re very happy to have them,” Massaro-Fain says. “It’s not that we don’t like men.” After a pause, she quips, “I guess I should speak for myself.”

Sisterhood for Good has virtually no rules, but there is one that’s vitally important: “We don’t permit drama,” Massaro-Fains says. “In any organization, when gossiping and infighting take over, it can ruin things. We don’t allow it. If you’re going to do that, please stop, or please resign. We don’t want anything to get in the way of our mission of group philanthropy.”

Massaro-Fain says the organization has never needed to invite a member to leave for stirring drama, but there has been a handful of minor interventions.

“We’re very fortunate that as a group we are very focused,” she adds. “But one of the side benefits of all this is that we’ve made lifelong friends.”

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