GoWomen: From Interim President and CEO Sunny Fischer

(W)e are each other’s 
we are each other’s
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.

Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem says it beautifully: we cannot do this work alone. 

This is the ninth Go Women essay of my return as Interim President and CEO of Chicago Foundation for Women and the last one that is mine to write. With pleasure, excitement, and gratitude, I hand the keys to the office to Keenya Lambert who will begin leading the Foundation on June 3. Keenya is a seasoned, compassionate, and creative professional who comes to us from Nourishing Hope, where she was Chief Development Officer.  Nourishing Hope, formerly known as Lakeview Pantry, is a social services organization providing food, mental wellness counseling, and other social services to Chicago. Before her tenure there, Keenya was VP for Development at the Shiver National Center on Poverty Law.

Keenya’s note to the search committee tells us all clearly why she was chosen as the new CEO.

Thank you for your willingness to entrust this dynamic organization to … [my stewardship]. Together, I believe we will amplify the work of CFW for the next 38 years and beyond. My passion to see people win is my drive. As we know all too well, women, girls, trans, and non-binary people are the most vulnerable to poverty and disinvestment (at every age of life). I believe we can change that. Movement building is the long game, and this organization will continue to be one of the architects in the women’s rights movement.

I am deeply moved by the acknowledgement and excited to partner with each of you on our next chapter. I am the person I am today because of working with individuals who believed in trust, collaboration, and values-centered leadership. In fundraising, we build partnerships in hopes of lasting a lifetime. My goal is to build bridges to capture the essence of the world we envision. To live out our values, beliefs, and priorities, we must first demonstrate how that must exist. We cannot achieve our mission without one another. With that, thank you for seeing me and seeing the future we can build together.

CFW  is in excellent hands.  Over her professional life, Keenya has worked on the social problems that our grantee organizations deal with every day.  She knows that to do this work, we must stay open and listen. As someone who worked in nonprofit organizations her whole career, she understands that we must use wisely the dollars donors entrust to us, but also take care to avoid creating onerous bureaucratic processes for our grantees, who often spend hours on paperwork rather than on their missions. We must avoid the arrogance often attributed to our profession. If we offer advice, it must be careful, respectful, and based on lived experience. Keenya has also been an integral part of CFW’s South Side Giving Circles, so knows first-hand that local and specific focus is an important way for us to help women thrive. 

On a  personal note: It’s been a privilege to serve as Interim CEO. It’s been a gift to have done the daily work of responding to the needs, thinking about solutions, engaging in the conversations, and reconnecting with so many former colleagues and old friends from nonprofits and foundations. So though in many ways it’s tough to leave, I do so with the knowledge that I am, as the great philosopher Winnie the Pooh said: “… lucky … to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  I’m proud of CFW’s work over the last 40 years—how we changed how people—especially women—give; how we’re clear to include LBTQ, and those identifying as gender non-binary in everything we do; how we understand that so many issues are intersectional; how we focus on women most in need; how we develop and support leaders; and, how for so many organizations, we are their first funders. We take risks that more traditional philanthropy is often reluctant to take, knowing that, because of our connection to communities all over Chicago, and our long years of learning, these risks pay off for thousands of women. Many of these small groups started around a kitchen table, as CFW did, and they know what their neighbors are going through, know what they may need to confront the myriad of issues they face. 

Keenya takes on this mission—it is not just a job—at a time when women deeply need her kind of passion and commitment. Reproductive rights are under attack; a recent report from CAASE* tells us that 80%-90% of sexual harm reports made to CPD did not result in an arrest; women between the ages of 24 and 55 earn16% less than men—women 55-64 earn 22% less.  Sure, there are challenges, including a difficult fundraising climate. 

But the good news is that Keenya inherits a long history of many brilliant successes from past leaders, a talented and dedicated staff, a strong and loyal board of directors, and thousands of supporters who wish her well. No doubt she will receive the same offers of support and practical help that greeted me back in September.  For those who haven’t met Keenya yet, when you do and hear more about her vision, you will be inspired and filled with excitement for the future of CFW.  And for those who have met her, I know you are with me in cheering her on to the shining future for our foundation and the women’s community.

CFW is in my blood. I will always be a supporter, always be a cheerleader, and always ready to help in any way.

Because—no one can do this work alone, and after almost 40 years, CFW has a multitude of allies and champions. The seeds have been sown for decades: we are each other’s harvest. 

Sunny Fischer
Interim President & CEO



CFW's 39th Annual Luncheon

Speaker Announcement Coming Soon!

The Annual Luncheon is a powerful fundraising event for Chicago Foundation for Women, inspiring us to continue leading, connecting, and uplifting individuals and organizations that support the basic rights of women and girls. This event celebrates our achievements and those of our grantees and raises over $ 1 million for grantmaking and programs. Speaker announcement coming soon! Sponsorships now available.

YWGC Iconic Women in Pop Workout Class

Join the Young Women’s Giving Council as they host the “Iconic Women in Pop” workout class on Saturday May 18th, from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. at Lively Dance Studio Space. Light refreshments and door prizes will be provided!

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Young Women’s Giving Council’s grantmaking that invests in community-based organizations that support BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) girls, young women, and trans and gender non-binary young people. Register here.

Our News

Chicago Foundation for Women’s Interim President and CEO was featured in JWc’s Media #Hashtag.

You can view the feature #HASHTAG: SUNNY FISCHER here.

Chicago Foundation for Women staff attended Chicago Women in Philanthropy’s Annual Luncheon. Congratulations again to Sharon Bush from Grand Victoria for her award.

CWIP 2024 Annual Luncheon.

Our Community

The ACLU released their April 2024 Impact Report.

You can find the full report here.

Lifting as They Climbed: History of Trailblazing Black Women in Chicago hosted by DePaul Women’s Center.

Organized by the Women’s Center and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at DePaul and cosponsored by DePaul’s African and Black Diaspora Studies, American Studies, Center for Black Diaspora, and Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies.

This is a free event and is scheduled for May 8th. You can register here.


COFI is hiring!

COFI is looking for experienced organizers for a range of positions. At least 2 years of organizing experience is required, and COFI is particularly looking for staff with 3-5 years of organizing experience. To learn more visit here.


Community Resources

Support Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

Search by various criteria the City of Chicago minority and women-owned businesses here.
Bossy Chicago has curated a list of women-owned businesses in various sectors across Chicago, which you can find here.
YShop – YWCA Metro Chicago’s online store, offering a curated selection of goods and services with a portion of each sale benefiting YWCA

Mental Health Resources

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has compiled a list of mental health resources you can find here.
2-1-1 Metro Chicago Hotline

211 Metro Chicago is a free resource connecting all Cook County residents with essential health and social services to help them meet their basic needs. Trained, local specialists are available 24/7 to connect individuals with the support they need, such as food, housing, utility assistance, access to health care, and other vital resources. Learn more here.

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