Chicago Foundation for Women raises money to fund and support organizations that help women and girls—it's all about making smarter connections between need, money and solutions. We believe that when women and girls are secure, whole communities are made better.

We are a community of people who share the excitement of giving to help women and girls thrive. We improve the lives of women and girls through grants, advocacy, leadership development, and public and grantee education. Since 1985, we have given more than 3,000 grants totaling over $20 million and helped thousands of women and girls become philanthropists.

Our grants focus on three strategies to improve women's and girls' lives:
  • Expanding economic security
  • Ensuring freedom from violence
  • Enhancing access to health services and information
We value – in ourselves and every organization we support – the core principles of equality, empowerment, diversity, collaboration and integrity



Chicago Foundation for Women is a grantmaking organization dedicated to increasing resources and opportunities for women and girls in the greater Chicago area. To support our philanthropy, the Foundation promotes increased investment in women and girls, raises awareness about their issues and potential, and develops them as leaders and philanthropists.


Chicago Foundation for Women envisions a community and world in which all women and girls have the opportunity to achieve their full potential and live in safe, just, and healthy communities.

Our History

Our Founders

(L to R) Marjorie Craig Benton, Lucia Woods Lindley, Iris J. Krieg, Sunny Fischer
At its inception, money was perhaps the primary motivating factor for Chicago Foundation for Women. Savvy women realized that only a small cut (approximately 3% in 1984) of philanthropic dollars were going to support programs addressing the specific needs of women and girls, although such programs addressing domestic violence, reproductive health, economic equality and other issues are critical to the well-being of thousands of females in Chicago (and, by extension, thousands of families affected by women's situations). In addition, women were underrepresented in philanthropy, uneducated in financial matters and disinclined to exercise control over assets. There was a need for women to be taught about the power and significance of giving in the community.

In 1984, four women leaders in the Chicago philanthropic community with a shared vision – Marjorie Craig Benton, Sunny Fischer, Iris J. Krieg and Lucia Woods Lindley – brought together a number of collaborators into planning groups that laid the financial and programmatic groundwork for Chicago Foundation for Women. These founders organized around the statement of Basic Principles which guides the Foundation to the present day. Chicago Foundation for Women was incorporated on Dec. 31, 1984. A board of directors was elected, fundraising carried out, and an executive director was hired the following year. In the spring of 1986, the Foundation made its first grants totaling $50,000.


Doris Conant,
CFW donor and
proud feminist activist

Maria Pesqueira,
President and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Accion, a CFW grantee

Wendy Manning,
Board member and chair-elect

Munira Patel,
co-chair of the Asian American Leadership Council

faces of cfw's PHILANTHROPY

Thanks to the support of our donor community, Chicago Foundation for Women has been able to give more than 3,000 grants totaling over $20 million. But, an often overlooked and critical pillar of our mission is to empower women and girls to become leaders and philanthropists. We do this because we know there is great power in helping women to take that big leap from.

Invest in a woman, help her and her family be secure, and she is very likely to support other women and girls. She will inspire others to do the same. This ripple-effect happens daily at CFW. 

This has certainly been the case for the four women profiled below. Please take a moment to read more about the different “Faces of CFW Philanthropy” and how supporting women and being supported by women has defined each woman’s philanthropy, career, and life.

Please take a moment to read more about the different “Faces of CFW Philanthropy” and how supporting women and being supported by women has defined each woman’s philanthropy, career, and life.