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Do Good: 'Women Who Care of Kent County' make a huge impact for local nonprofits

A lot can happen in one mere hour. Just ask the four nonprofits that have benefitted from the gatherings of Women Who Care of Kent County, an organization that meets quarterly to do some major good.
Sharon Stiansen, left, and  Katherine Florentine.

100 women meet in one place for just one hour, and each person makes a $100 donation. A nonprofit can easily walk away with $10,000 or more in unrestricted donations or double that if they have matching funds.
Founded by Sharon Stiansen and Katherine Florentine in June 2013, Women Who Care of Kent County so far has raised money for The Children's Assessment Center, CASA, God’s Kitchen’s Baby and Toddler Pantry, and Arts in Motion. From a modest beginning of 52 women, the group now boasts 110 members after only four meetings.

Former mayor and businesswoman Karen Dunigan of Jackson, Michigan founded the original chapter in 2006. Today, Women Who Care has over 100 chapters throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Sadly, Dunigan passed away last month at the age of 61.

“It’s a brilliantly simple way to raise money efficiently and quickly for local charities, nonprofits, or worthy causes,” says Stiansen. “We were inspired to start our own group after we observed a similar gathering in December 2012.”

“We were just were blown away,” Florentine says. “It was amazing to see what a huge impact 100 women could make in just one hour.”

The premise is simple and appeals to women who want to make a difference but don’t have megabucks to donate or the time to volunteer or sit on a nonprofit’s board: 100 women meet in one place for just one hour, and each person makes a $100 donation. A nonprofit can easily walk away with $10,000 or more in unrestricted donations or double that if they have matching funds.

More specifically, the group meets quarterly and utilizes the democratic process. At each gathering, members submit the names of their favorite local 501(c)3 organizations. Three names are drawn at random from a basket, and the corresponding members give a five-minute elevator pitch about “their” organizations. Members vote for one organization that speaks to them, and the winner is announced. Then things get very serious: The pocketbooks come out and each attendee writes a $100 check directly to the winning nonprofit.

There are a couple of caveats: The actual organizations can’t pitch for themselves -- members of Women Who Care of Kent County have to make the presentations – and the winning organizations cannot solicit any of the members for future donations. They also cannot give out any information about the donations or group to the public.

Stiansen and Florentine say that the gatherings have opened their eyes to organizations in the community they didn’t know existed.  

“We also build community by connecting members with local nonprofit groups,” says Florentine. “And we increase our ability to help by inviting West Michigan women of all ages, backgrounds, and professions.”

Women Who Care of Kent County is not a nonprofit. They have no board and no bank account. The venue donates the space, and attendees pay for their own cocktails and dinner.

“We are simply West Michigan women coming together to help local nonprofit groups,” says Stiansen.

Members must make a one-year, $400 commitment. That’s only $100 per quarter and only four hours of time per year.

The next meeting is June 5 at 5:30 p.m. at Blythefield Country Club, 5801 Northland Dr., Belmont, Michigan. Women interested in attending should RSVP to Katherine Florentine on the group’s Facebook page.

Come and check them out. “There’s no pressure,” says Florentine. “You don’t have to volunteer. We’re just good people helping good people do good things. We’d love to have a few more members.”

Get involved:

- Follow Women Who Care of Kent County on Facebook.
- Attend their next meeting on June 5 at Blythefield Country Club at 5:30. RSVP on the FB page.

Victoria Mullen is the Do Good editor for Rapid Growth Media.

Photos by Adam Bird.
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