Women are at the forefront of Southwest Florida’s philanthropic engagement and impact. At fundraising galas, they are behind the scenes as event chairs, on stage delivering impactful speeches and, in the audience, raising their paddles to bid on auction items.
They are rolling up their sleeves to volunteer or serve as board members, setting policy and providing governance.
They are rising to the challenge to open their hearts (and wallets) so local nonprofits have the means to carry out their missions.
Southwest Florida’s female philanthropists are a force to reckon with.
“Guadalupe Center was first led by Sister Judy Dohner and continues to enjoy strong female leadership among the Board of Trustees and executive levels, as well as all programs and campuses,” said President and CEO Dawn Montecalvo. “Seeing females successfully lead an organization, especially one focused on education, makes Guadalupe Center an attractive cause for women looking to make a difference in the community.”
Guadalupe Center serves more than 1,900 students annually in Immokalee through its nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program.
“Research shows that women give to philanthropic causes at a higher rate than men – in both treasure and time – and generally are well connected within the community,” said Maria Bustamante, the organization’s donor relations manager. “That’s why Guadalupe Center recently established the Golden Circle Giving Society, which was founded on the belief that a collective vision – especially of women – working toward a common goal strengthens the intention and impact of giving.”
An initial group of 15 women – • Alice Arena • Gloria Beissinger • Paula Winkler Doman• Phyllis Ettinger • Pat Forbes • Sally Foster • Lisa McNichol• Dawn Montecalvo • Marcia Nunn • Kathy Sachs • Meryl Towarnicki• Dorothy Wax • Barbara Uible • Ellen Vanderburg • Linda Yost –joined the Golden Circle and represent a broad spectrum of female philanthropists.
They hail from states across the United States and represent a variety of industries, including education, finance, architecture, interior design, real estate, advertising and more. Some are retired and some are still working. Some are seasonal residents and others live in Southwest Florida full time.
“We all recognize that a high-quality education creates endless possibilities for children,” Yost said, “and by providing them with this opportunity, we can help create a cycle of prosperity for these students, their families and the community of Immokalee.”
That inaugural group is already making an impact. Members held a Spring Social, which had a theme of “Women, Wine & Well-Being.” Then in May, they voted to direct their funding to support a newly developed position – a behavior intervention specialist to work one-on-one with students who need proactive interventions to help them find academic, social, behavioral and emotional success.
Recently, Bertha Mendez, a longtime teacher in Guadalupe Center’s nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, completed an ABLE Academy specialized training through a strategic collaboration with the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF). She is already sharing insights and resources with students, teachers and parents.
“Many students need to overcome behavioral issues that can interrupt their ability to learn,” Mendez said. “Decreasing or eliminating these barriers means we can increase their potential to learn, thrive and grow academically, and they’ll ultimately experience more success in the classroom.”
This fall, Guadalupe Center will continue building membership in its Golden Circle Giving Society and evaluating other initiatives to support. Similar movements are occurring nationally as forward-thinking organizations cultivate female donors to help accomplish their missions. According to the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), female philanthropists:
- Learn philanthropy at an early age
- Believe wealth comes with responsibility
- Continue learning
- Take risks
- Focus on the return on investment
- Invest in systems-level change
- Are empathic
To join the Golden Circle Giving Society, prospective members can make a minimum gift of $2,500 annually to help fund lifechanging programs and initiatives at Guadalupe Center. This fall, members will vote to fund another project, and in the spring, members will convene for the second annual “Women, Wine & Well-Being” event.
For more information, please visit GuadalupeCenter.org/Golden-Circle-Giving-Society or call Maria Bustamante at 239-657-7141.
About the Author
Kelly Krupp is Vice President of Philanthropy at Guadalupe Center, which provides high-quality educational services to more than 1,900 students annually in Immokalee.