GoWomen, brought to you by the Giving Councils and Circles of CFW
November 06 2019

This month, GoWomen has been “taken over” by members of CFW’s Giving Councils and Circles! With more than 180 diverse members, representing six groups, the Giving Councils and Circles pool their resources and make collective investments in the issues most important to them and those impacting their communities. Leading up to #GivingTuesday (December 3, 2019), each group has nominated one nonprofit organization, for a total of six awesome organizations, that will be in the running to receive an additional, $10,000 grant from CFW this #GivingTuesday. Even better? You will get to vote and decide who gets the award. Stay tuned for more details.


Defined in the simplest terms, philanthropy means the love of humanity.

For this reason, I have no issue calling myself a philanthropist.  But for a long time, I struggled with a power dynamic I often saw in philanthropic spaces. Most vividly, I recall a site visit where I watched a prospective donor commandeer the meeting by telling the brilliant woman of color,  nonprofit leader, and executive director, that her highly successful programming was lacking and that she should approach her work differently. He emphasized his interest in “scalability” and argued the mid-sized local organization needed to adopt a complicated system of metrics and an aggressive approach for growth in order to scale its impact nationally. The man’s words were jarring. I cringed, others in the room looked at the floor, and the executive director smiled weakly. Instead of boldly affirming her expertise and the impact of her local programming, she demurred not wanting to lose the opportunity to secure a large donation. It was a disturbing scene that plenty of women leaders have experienced. I wanted to be a philanthropist, but not like that guy.

I discovered giving circles while studying philanthropy as a graduate student at New York University. Despite not being a popular topic, I made the collective giving groups a serious focal point for my research and writing. A decade later, I remain a passionate advocate and giving circles are the fastest growing area of philanthropy. Giving circles bring together unique perspectives from different voices with similar interests for collective impact.

While still fairly new to Chicago, I came across an article “Meet The South Side Queenmakers: Philanthropists Team Up To Invest In Black Women And Girls,” announcing the newest giving circle at Chicago Foundation for Women.

Chicago Foundation for Women is home to six diverse giving circles and councils that demonstrate the power of collective giving. Working in partnership with these groups, CFW has created opportunities for philanthropists like me to take part in creating an impact in our communities. Individuals across Chicago are supporting and directing funds to address issues affecting women and girls in our City. That is powerful.

These Giving Circles and Councils bring together a much-needed population of donors who consider the impacts of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and ability in their grantmaking. The South Side Giving Circle (SSGC) was everything I held dear as a donor; Black, hyper-local, and committed to investing directly in black women on the South Side, where resources from other funders were scarce. I contacted Eli Marsh at CFW to express my interest in learning more about SSGC and attended a gathering to meet the “Queenmakers.” Finally, I was in the company of a group of donors that fit. Our fierce President and CEO, and SSGC co-founder, Felicia Davis said, the “ability to write the story for ourselves, to script a philanthropy that is made for us, by us, is what drew me to CFW.” I wholeheartedly agree.

After attending the Queenmakers 1st Annual Grantee Celebration and hearing testimonies of the women who received the first SSGC grants, I was certain CFW was the place where I would become a philanthropist. I still watch the Instagram stories highlights from that event because it was such a moving experience.

I was in the company of Queenmakers. I was home.

Akira Barclay

Akira Barclay is a South Side Giving Circle Queenmaker and author of The Value of Giving Circles in the Evolution of Community Philanthropy. She is the Founder of Fresh Philanthropy, where she provides consulting services to donors and is a frequent media contributor on the topics of giving circles and philanthropy. Akira earned a master’s degree in fundraising and grantmaking from New York University. She lives with her family in Hyde Park.



What CFW’s Giving Council and Circle Members are saying:

Anita Mital, CFW Board Member and Western Suburbs Giving Council Member

“We are women from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and professions who pool our resources together to make a gift that makes an impact… Each member gets one vote and we determine, in a democratic fashion, who we are going to give the grant to and what amount. The charities we have supported so far all do amazing work and sometimes the hardest decision is who to give the grant to.”

Tashasha Henderson, Women United Giving Council Member

“I possess a deep passion and commitment to supporting girls and women of color in any way that I can, whether that’s through volunteering, organizing or philanthropy. It’s also really important for me to contribute to distributing resources to organizations that are positively impacting the lives of women and girls of color. The Women United Giving Council was the perfect opportunity to be in community with other women of color who share the same passion and commitment, and I have really enjoyed my experience!”

Joan Bacon, CFW Board Member and North Shore Giving Circle Member

“The concept of the giving circle, allowing me to have a hands-on experience with grantmaking and personal philanthropy, really appealed to me. As a member, you’re directly helping women and girls in your own communities, you’re impacting your neighbors. As a North Shore Giving Circle (NSGC) member for the past six  years, I have seen how the power of our collective gifts can change lives.”

Adriana Viteri, Young Women’s Giving Council Co-Chair

“The Young Women’s Giving Council of CFW provides me with the opportunity to continue developing leadership skills, network and create a community with like-minded young professionals, and participate in grantmaking for emerging nonprofits supporting women and girls. After working in several community-based settings, I’ve been deeply inspired by the community members and leaders who ‘do the work’ on the ground to change their lived realities.”

Lauren Birchlove, LBTQ Giving Council Chair

“For a long time, if you asked me what a philanthropist looked like, the image in my mind would be an older, wealthy male; a Rockefeller, or Bloomberg. As a young queer woman working in the nonprofit sector, I don’t fit that profile, so, philanthropist felt like a title I could not earn. I was wrong… Chicago Foundation for Women has given me, and thousands of other women like me, a platform to bring change, not charity, to Chicago. CFW has taught me the power of collective giving through my work with the LBTQ Giving Council.”





While not an exhaustive list, to be sure, here are some articles and resources CFW’s Giving Council and Circle members have found useful, thought-provoking and informative:

Giving Circle Membership: How Collective Giving Impacts DonorsThis 2018 report from The Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University looks at how giving circle participation influences members and explores how established members differ from new ones. Among many interesting findings, the report shows that newer giving circle members tend to be more diverse in terms of age, income and race.

Grantmaking with a Gender Lens: Required (or highly encouraged) reading for all CFW Giving Council and Circle members, this informative piece by GrantCraft helps readers to understand that applying a gender lens to their philanthropy does not just mean “not men.” To have a complete, intersectional approach to one’s philanthropy, be sure to also read Grantmaking with a Racial Equity Lens.

The Power of Privilege (VIDEO), Tiffany Jana’s powerful TED talk about harnessing, sharing and using our privilege, whoever we are.



When you join one of the Giving Councils or Circles of CFW, you have an opportunity to bring fresh ideas, unique concerns and perspectives, and new energy to philanthropic leadership and advocacy. Break barriers for the women and girls you care about and expand Chicago Foundation for Women’s grantmaking by joining one of CFW’s six Giving Circles or Giving Councils today:

LBTQ Giving Council: Mobilizing resources to support LGBTQ-identified individuals. Save the Date: March 7, 2020 International Women’s Day Dance.

Women United Giving Council: Supporting and elevating culturally rich and diverse communities of women and girls (membership will open again in 2020).

Young Women’s Giving Council: Investing in and empowering girls and young women to create social change.

North Shore Giving Circle: Creating meaningful impact in the lives of women and girls in the northern suburbs. Come meet members, hear from a grantee and enjoy a wine tasting next week, November 14 for the Kickoff Event.

South Side Giving Circle: Paving a path to investment in women and girls on Chicago’s South Side (membership will open again in 2020).

Western Suburbs Giving Circle: Connecting resources and solutions for women and girls in the western suburbs.


Do you know someone dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of women and girls in Chicago? Nominate them for a Chicago Foundation for Women 2020 Impact Award today! The deadline to submit nominations is Monday, December 2, 2019. Click here to download the nomination form (a Word document will download). Also, be sure to save the date for the 2020 Impact Awards ceremony on March 18, 2020.



Nearly 2,000 Flip The Script with CFW at the 34th Annual Luncheon

On October 15, nearly 2,000 members of our community came together to Flip the Script on what’s possible for Chicago’s women and girls at Chicago Foundation for Women’s 34th Annual Luncheon. Throughout the afternoon, we heard from powerful women who are the authors of their own stories and premiered a new video that highlights the Englewood Women’s Initiative through the story of one of its participants, Iesha.

Thanks to the Annual Luncheon Host Committee and this year’s Co-Chairs – Janice Rodgers, Regina Cross and David Hiller, as well as the generous match from Brenda and James Grusecki and Laurel Appell Lipkin and her family – who gave in memory and in honor of their mother, Evelyn Appell Lipkin – CFW raised nearly $1,200,000 to invest in the health, safety and economic security of Chicago-area women and girls.

CFW is a 2019 Chicago Innovation Awards WINNER!

Out of 450 nominees, Chicago Foundation for Women’s Englewood Women’s Initiative is among the 25 winners who received a 2019 Chicago Innovation Award! You can check out the tribute video announcing CFW’s win, as well as the other two recipients of the Wintrust Neighborhood Innovation Award here.

The Englewood Women’s Initiative (EWI) focuses resources on the needs of women living in Englewood, embodying CFW’s mission to invest in women and girls as catalysts, building stronger communities for all. It is our goal to see that this initiative serves as a global, scalable model for creating improved outcomes for undervalued populations – including helping to alleviate community violence – by focusing on the comprehensive needs of women and their children. Learn more here.

CULTIVATE 2019 Kicks Off

Caption: Participants in the 2019 Cultivate Cohort gather for a photo at the launch event at the Chicago Community Trust. 

Cultivate: Women of Color Leadership (Cultivate) is a leadership development program for women of color nonprofit leaders, created through a collaboration between the Crossroads Fund, Woods Fund Chicago, the Chicago Community Trust, and CFW. This unique leadership program seeks to strengthen relationships among participants, fostering partnerships across organizations and uniting through a shared vision for a better Chicago. CFW is honored to be part of this joint effort to empower and build coalitions of women across our City. Learn more about Cultivate here.



Felicia Davis on WVON

Recently, Felicia Davis, CFW’s President and CEO, participated in a segment with Kimberly Egonmwan on WVON the Talk of Chicago 1690 AM. Felicia spoke about the issues women face in the workforce, particularly related to pay, opportunities for managerial and executive positions, and how even though women are outpacing men in higher education, their attainment in the workforce does not reflect the same progress. She also shared how last year, CFW granted $2.8 million to 117 organizations on the frontlines in our communities. Listen to the segment here.

Inside Philanthropy: In Pursuit of Justice, Nonprofits and Funders Push for Rape Kit Reform

“Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) supported Test400K in the past. CFW President and CEO Felicia Davis says, ‘Each one of these kits was provided in good faith by survivors; survivors who are now being retraumatized by the inaction of our criminal justice system.’ ”

The rape kit backlog is detrimental to the safety of all women. CFW has joined women’s foundations and funds across the U.S., supporting the improvement of rape kit processing systems and legislative reform. Read the article here.



CFW partners with Chicago Humanities Festival for Supermajority, November 8

Chicago Foundation for Women is excited to partner with the Chicago Humanities Festival for Supermajority, featuring Ai-jen Poo, Alicia Garza, and Cecile Richards on Friday, November 8 at the Harold Washington Library Center.

Three women behind some of today’s most powerful political organizations – Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood; Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network; and Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance – have come together to found Supermajority, a community for people of all backgrounds, races, and ages who want to fight to make sure everyone is treated equally, no matter their gender. Richards, Garza, and Poo will join the Chicago Sun-Times’s Laura Washington to discuss their motivation in creating Supermajority, and layout their plan for creating gender equity. Information and tickets available here.

Young Feminist Conference, November 9

CFW is thrilled to once again partner with Cause the Effect to present the 2019 Young Feminist Conference. Planning is underway for the annual half-day Conference to explore topics of intersectional feminism, empowerment and activism. While this Conference is tailored to young feminists age 14-21, all are welcome and encouraged to attend. Reserve your free tickets here today.

Empowered Women: Leading Chicago and Each Other

It is a powerful time for women in Chicago. On November 20, Felicia Davis (CFW President and CEO) will join Chicago Women in Philanthropy and Sol Flores (Deputy Governor, Office of the Governor JB Pritzker), Kim Foxx (State’s Attorney, Cook County, Illinois) and Andrea Zopp (President & CEO, World Business Chicago) to share a lively conversation about how they feel, act, and think in empowered ways. Additional information and tickets available here.

Unfinished Business: Closing the Gender Equity Gap for Women and Girls in Chicago

In CFW’s recent Status of Women and Girls report, we shared that for every 10 men in the workforce, there are 9.3 women, nearly equal representation, without equal pay. On December 9, The City Club of Chicago welcomes Judy Hsu, the Emmy award-winning ABC 7 anchor, to moderate a discussion between Cherita Ellens, CEO of Women Employed, Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, and Felicia Davis, President and CEO of CFW. Join us as these local women leaders share their ideas, challenges, and hopes for a better future for the women of Chicago. Register or find additional information here.

Leave a Legacy of Purpose with CFW

A former welder, and the daughter of farmers, Reverend Willie Taplin Barrow does not fit the stereotypical image of a philanthropist. But as a leader in Chicago’s civil rights movement, Rev. Barrow believed in breaking barriers and challenging the status quo. Thanks to her estate, Rev. Barrow’s legacy and fierce commitment to justice lives on through The Willie Taplin Barrow Fund for Black Women’s Leadership at Chicago Foundation for Women. There are many ways to leave your legacy at Chicago Foundation for Women. To learn more about planned giving, visit www.cfw.org/plannedgiving, or contact Katy Thomas at 312.577.2836 or kthomas@cfw.org.