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Reflecting on Straight Talk: CWIP’s First Event of 2018 Continues Conversation Around Justice and Equity in Philanthropy

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 29, 2018

On Friday, January 26, more than 100 representatives of the nonprofit, corporate and foundation communities gathered at the Women’s Athletic Club for “Straight Talk: Unpacking the Power Dynamic between Grantseekers and Grantmakers.” The goal of this event was to engage in open and honest dialogue about how we can break down silos and build stronger relationships between organizations seeking grants and the funders making those grants.

As the first CWIP event of 2018, this gathering highlighted CWIP’s theme of social and racial equity and many of the core messages that were shared centered around what goes into an authentic relationship between funders and the organizations they support.

The event began with two high-energy, rapid-fire panels moderated by Diane Knoepke, vice president of the Alford Group. These panels were composed of two grantor/grantee pairs discussing what makes their funding relationship successful. The first panel featured organizations and funders from the family and community service sector, including Hina Mahmood, program officer of the Woods Fund Chicago, and their grantee Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, represented by Director of Organizing Steve Hosik Moon.


Mahmood and Moon highlighted the importance of allowing for and learning from failure as a key factor to the success of their funding relationship. “Every conversation happens in the context of learning,” Mahmood shared. “We have a strong feedback loop with our partners.”


The first panel also included Yolanda Knight, program officer for the Steans Family Foundation, and their grantee I AM ABLE Family Development Center, represented by President and CEO Dr. Carolyn Vessel, who emphasized the importance of having everyone at the table. “We work together as funder and grantee, and we don’t walk away from the tough issues we have to face. They are at the table with us.” Dr. Vessel shared as she described the evolution of I AM ABLE’s literacy program for kindergartners to include case management due to the very real traumas faced by so many of the children in the program. In describing her relationship with the Steans Family Foundation staff, Dr. Vessel describes them as putting the “fun” in funder. “We smile together, we cry together. There is a lot of love.”


The rapid-fire second panel included grantor/grantee pairs from the arts and culture sector and featured Francia Harrington representing Fifth Third Bank and their grantee Navy Pier, represented by Chief Development Officer Patrick Sheahan, and Kristin Hettich, program officer of the Alphawood Foundation, and their grantee DanceWorks Chicago, represented by Artistic Director Julie Nakagawa. This panel dug deeper into how to establish the kind of rich and authentic relationships that were described during the first panel. “There are a lot of relationships that come to bear on this work,” Sheahan reflected. “When we begin a conversation with a potential funder, we really make sure the values connect.”

Authentic listening, mutual respect, and candor were all cited as important means to discovering those shared values. “Each of us has a different set of resources and red tape. The power is really in respecting each other’s goals,” Harrington emphasized.


After the panels, participants enjoyed the opportunity to continue the conversation in small group roundtable discussions with the other people at their table. Individuals had a chance to share their own experiences either grantmaking or grantseeking and brainstorm together the necessary strategies to continue to breakdown the silos that prevent us from engaging in more just and equitable relationships as grantmakers and grantseekers.


These important conversations can’t stop here. Join Chicago Women in Philanthropy throughout 2018 as we continue to explore racial and social equity in our sector. For more information about upcoming events, including the CWIP Annual Luncheon on March 21, visit our events calendar.

Click here to view all the photos from this event.

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Getting to Know our Members | Carolyn Nopar

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 29, 2018

Despite beginning her career in the corporate sector, Carolyn Nopar found her true calling in philanthropy when she reentered the workforce after taking some time off with her children.  Now a veteran in the field, Carolyn has a broad range of expertise and demonstrated success at Habitat for Humanity, Enterprising Kitchen, Family Focus, YWCA Metro Chicago, and Skills for Chicagoland’s Future (Skills).  Carolyn has also spent the last five years with Chicago Women in Philanthropy (CWIP) and was just recently elected Board Co-Chair. 

The initial draw to CWIP was Carolyn’s desire to meet funders; however, she quickly found a welcoming space where she could meet people without an agenda, which lead to becoming much more involved over the past five years.  Before her role as Co-Chair, Carolyn was a CWIP member, Board Director, Co-Chair of the Communications Committee and Chair of the Partnership Committee.

Within CWIP, and in her professional life, Carolyn is motivated by new ideas and finds implementing “out of the box” projects to be invigorating.  She feels personally successful when using a lot of different skillsets to accomplish one goal, stretching herself (and those around her) to achieve the very best.  An example of this is when Carolyn was hired to launch a social enterprise for Habitat for Humanity Northern Fox Valley.  This project included conducting a feasibility study, writing a business plan, securing seed funding, finding a location, securing inventory and hiring staff.  The ReStore opened in 2006 and provides a substantial stream of unrestrictive revenue that continues to this day.

With Carolyn’s passion for progress, it is no wonder the worst advice she could receive is “it has always been done that way.”  Instead, Carolyn uses the following quote to guide her:

“Trust the wait.  Embrace the uncertainty.  Enjoy the beauty of becoming.  When nothing is certain, anything is possible.”

It is this optimism that is required for success in the nonprofit field.  When thinking ahead, Carolyn firmly believes it is the industry’s fragmented practices that will be the biggest challenge to overcome, but she looks forward to tackling these issues head-on.  “Nonprofits need to work together better to avoid duplicating services in order to promote industry best practices.  With the participant need increasing, and more and more limitations on public and private funding, the sector needs to come together to achieve success.”

And, this is what CWIP provides Carolyn – A space to think on a broader scale; to look at the whole ecosystem of a problem instead of the single issue.  “It’s exciting to be a part of something that allows the time and space to look at the broader context.  This makes me a better fundraiser and provides leadership development skills that can benefit anyone, seasoned professionals or those new to the field.”

To learn more about CWIP and how you can become involved, please visit

Tags:  blog  Getting to Know our Members 

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Happy Holidays from CWIP!

Posted By Jessica Richter, Thursday, December 21, 2017
Happy Holidays from CWIP! We know that many of our followers do their best to give back during the Holiday season, so we thought we’d let our board share their favorite ways to give back during this busy season.

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Happy Holidays from CWIP!

Posted By Jessica Richter, Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Happy Holidays from CWIP! We know that many of our followers are buying lots of gifts for the girls and young women in their lives, so CWIP’s Board of Directors and Committees decided to get in on the fun & share their favorite holiday gift ideas for the girls in their lives!

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Getting to Know Our Members | Rachael Marusarz

Posted By Administration, Monday, October 2, 2017

Rachael Marusarz vividly remembers her first Chicago Women in Philanthropy  (CWIP) event nine years ago, when she was a relatively introverted development officer at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. She enjoyed the event and learned a great deal from the speakers, but the most meaningful moment was when a program officer from a local foundation told her, “I’ll take off my funder hat, you take off your grantee hat, and we’ll just be two women here to support one another.”  It was that atmosphere of support that propelled her involvement with CWIP.

Today, Marusarz is the Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations at Sinai Health System and the newly nominated CWIP Co-Chair.

As a new CWIP board member, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Marusarz and learn a bit more about this powerhouse woman who believes deeply in community, connection, and camaraderie.   

Congratulations on your nomination!  What does it mean to you to be the new Co-Chair of CWIP?

It is a tremendous honor!  I adore this organization and am inspired by these women.  Being a woman in philanthropy is essential to who I am.  I greatly value the mentorship and support I’ve received, and continue to receive, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to pay it forward.  CWIP is all about community and building relationships to ensure we all succeed.

What does success look like for you?

At Sinai, success involves building a culture of philanthropy within the organization and elevating Sinai Health System within the community.  We’re doing important work – building systems of healthcare on Chicago’s south and west sides. We also are conducting rich community health research with the Sinai Urban Health Institute that needs to be built upon and shared.

At CWIP, it is utilizing those “uncommon connections” within the network to find creative solutions to challenges, to partner with other members to achieve a greater mission, or to simply have a space where you can take a moment to remember you’re not alone in the world of philanthropy.  It is important to know that there are others who can relate to your challenges and support you in finding solutions.  We’re all in it together.

Why do you work in philanthropy?

I have always worked in philanthropy.  I love going to work knowing I’m making a positive impact.  If I am going to spend this much of my life working, I want it to be meaningful.  I want to be part of making a positive difference.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

Always orient toward your vision.  Even if you’re working on a small task, remember what change you want to see.

What would you say to a new CWIP member?

Find a way to get involved quickly.  Whether you join a committee, help plan an event, or have coffee with a CWIP Ambassador, be sure you utilize this fantastic community to get the support you need to be successful.

For 35 years, CWIP has been creating connections and fostering change as a community of philanthropic, corporate-giving, and nonprofit women. Our members are passionate about helping other women advance in society.  To learn more, please visit


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Tips From a Mentor | Christy Uchida

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 28, 2017

Recently, Communications Committee members Katherine Dreher and Amber Crossen sat down with CWIP WLMP Mentor and longtime CWIP member, Christy Uchida, Senior Program Officer at The Brinson Foundation, to discuss the role of mentorship in Christy’s professional development and how the CWIP community has helped her build deeper and stronger connections to fellow women in philanthropy.

Christy became a member of CWIP in 2012 after being encouraged to join by her former colleague, Cheryl Heads, who served on the CWIP Board of Directors at the time. “This organization is about supporting women in the field and I liked that it created a space for both grant makers and grant seekers. So it didn’t take much convincing,” Christy said.  

About a year after joining, Christy was invited to get involved in the WLMP mentoring program. She says participating in this program has been one of her favorite things about CWIP. “CWIP creates an amazing opportunity to network and create space, provide opportunity for leadership positions that can help you grow within your own career,” Christy said. “You can utilize this organization as a platform to show what it is you’re interested and want to do within your career development.”

Why Did You Get Involved in the Mentorship Program?

“It’s helpful to remember what it’s like to be an entry level professional in the field,” Christy said, reflecting on the mutual benefit of the WLMP mentoring program for both the mentors and the mentees. “It’s always good to create these relationships and it even helps to bridge generational gaps. I think that being a mentor helps you create in-depth relationships, and I have realized that I have just as much to learn as I do to offer mentees.”

“It’s such a supportive community and the structure of the program itself is so clear and helpful. It’s well organized, intentional and well done, which is reflective of CWIP as well. If you want to get something done well, give it to a non-profit professional!”

How Have You Continued to Work with Past Mentees?

During the interview, Christy shared several examples of how she continues to stay in touch with, and learn from, her past mentees:

Ashley Brown, who is now at the AIDS Foundation, was a past mentee of mine and I am glad to say that I helped in some way to connect her to the position she is in now. While she didn’t make the move to that position in the year that we were mentoring, we would meet for coffee, even after mentoring, and talk about her making the move, which she was able to do. Another past mentee of mine was Jenny Shanks, who is at the Siragusa Foundation, and it was great because we had so much in common in our work and what our foundations were working on. The learning in that relationship was definitely both ways; I learned as much from her as I hope that she learned from me. And after having been a mentee, she went on to become a mentor as well. We have continued to stay in touch and it’s great to see.”

What Is the Best Professional Advice that You’ve Received?

We couldn’t finish our conversation with Christy without asking her about the best professional advice she has received so far:

“The best advice I received is that networking is key,” Christy said. “Networking is how I got to where I am in my career. My past jobs, I either knew individuals on the board or even knew the person who had my position before me. So mentorship and CWIP are just so important because they help create those relationships between people who may not otherwise know each other. It’s so important for women to help other women. Many women have supported me, and I have definitely benefited from other women mentoring and supporting me.”

Thank you to Christy for taking the time to sit down with us and for sharing your tips from a mentor. Applications for this year’s WLMP mentoring program have been submitted, so connect with CWIP on social media and look out for the announcement of this year’s mentor/mentee pairs!

-- Katherine Dreher and Amber Crossen

Tags:  Christy Uchida  mentor  WLMP 

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead: 2017 CWIP Annual Meeting Report

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“This has been a tremendously exciting and productive time for CWIP, stepping up for women and girls during these times of change and uncertainty,” outgoing board co-chair Maricar Ramos told attendees at the CWIP Annual Meeting in August. The event, which drew more than 130 attendees, included a roundup of the year’s wins and a preview of what’s to come.


Ramos presented some of the highlights of the CWIP 2016-17 year, including:

        Expanding the Women’s Leadership Mentoring Program program to add mentoring for mid-career professionals; five mentees were added to the program

        Launching a series of programs on racial equity and justice; “we felt it was important to take a stand with educational opportunities and an open space for discussions.” This theme will also be woven into future programming

        Implemented a new member database and web site

        Annual luncheon raised more than $50,000 and honored Elizabeth Dozier

        Successful events such as Face to Face with Funders, Speed Mentoring, and the Path to Racial Consciousness

        There are 251 CWIP members this year

Ramos reported the organization is ending its fiscal year with healthy reserves. “This allows us to be more innovative in our offerings, focusing on topics that advance women and girls,” she said.


Incoming board co-chair Rachael Marusarz presented the board slate for 2017-18. The slate was approved. Information about the CWIP board can be found here.


Treasurer Tawa Mitchell reported that the organization is in “great fiscal health” and had surpassed its financial goals for the year. This success allows the organization to reinvest into programs such as social justice and community outreach.


The meeting also included recognition of outgoing board members and outstanding volunteers. “These members work behind the scenes; they craft programs, orchestrate opportunities for funders and grantees, execute events, and bring us together for annual luncheons and coordinate communications mechanisms that keep us in the know,” presenters Katie Claussen Bell and Carolyn Nopar said. “We are grateful to you and the talents that you bring.” Outgoing board co-chair Bell and outgoing board member Maria Kim were thanked for their outstanding service. Volunteers Jacki Davidoff, Glynnis Hokenson, Alexis Allegra, Katherine Dreher, and Ann Wilson were also recognized.


CWIP members should keep their eyes open for communication about future events, Bell said. A continuation of the conversations on racial justice is tentatively planned for October 20, and the 2018 Annual Luncheon is tentatively planned for March 21.

--Anne Zender

To see more photos from the CWIP Annual Meeting, please click here.

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Tags:  Annual Meeting  CWIP Events 

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CWIP Courage Centered Dialoge Series

Posted By Jessica Richter, Thursday, July 20, 2017

Educator, writer, and facilitator Stacey Gibson urges listeners to practice the difficult emotional work of addressing how race impacts our lives and to commit to being anti-racist. Gibson spoke at the first of CWIP’s series of Courage-Centered Dialogues in mid-June. At the event, which tackled the issue of racial consciousness, Gibson challenged a room full of community leaders to start on a collective path of learning and understanding how race impacts our everyday lives. Race is one of the only places where we are encouraged to limit literacy, Gibson said, asking the audience to challenge those limitations and commit to a lifestyle of learning.

Join our e-mail list for more information on upcoming events in this series.

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Event Recap - Face to Face with Funders

Posted By Jessica Richter, Tuesday, May 23, 2017

By Caronina Grimble

Face to Face with Funders provided over 40 community organizations the unique opportunity to engage one-on-one with one of 20 local grantmakers and receive feedback on a grant proposal. From arts programs to workforce development and everything in between, pairs of funders and grantees filled the room with conversations about how to craft and present strong grant applications.
"There are a lot of amazing things happening across the city, and I wish we could fund them all" remarked one funder after hearing about an arts program looking to expand.
"Being able to talk directly with someone without the fear of any kind of backlash is incredibly helpful; I can freely ask questions of funders and not be afraid of the responses...and the feedback was invaluable" said a grantseeker.  
Through Face to Face with Funders, grantmakers are able to provide valuable support to nonprofit professionals, and grantseekers are able to further advance the mission of their organizations across the city. 

Stay tuned for next year's Face to Face with Funders. We hope to see you there! 

Tags:  CWIP Events  F2F  Face to Face with Funders 

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Getting to Know Our Members - Iris Krieg

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An Interview with Iris Krieg by Katherine Dreher 

Chicago Women in Philanthropy (CWIP) is a community of philanthropic, corporate-giving, and nonprofit women. Our members are passionate about helping other women advance in society. Meet CWIP's founder, Iris Krieg. 

Why did you found Chicago Women in Philanthropy?
"The context of the time was completely different than it is today, this was years before the Chicago Foundation for Women, so we did not even have a place to focus that attention in the world of philanthropy.

When I entered philanthropy in the 1970s, most staff were men. There were very few women in the field. There were no women Trustees or Foundation Directors, leadership at the highest level was mostly male. When I came into this field, I felt alone. I did not have a lot of professional role models or mentors, and for years the field disparaged women's issues. Both in the funding world and in the not-for-profit community, women's issues were not taken seriously.

But I believed and continue to believe that when people get together they can make a difference, and what started as 12 women sharing a brown bag lunch once a month has grown to a network of hundreds of members and volunteers. This is what motivated us to start Chicago Women in Philanthropy and this is what continues to motivate me today."

Worst Professional Advice
"The worst professional advice that I ever received was 'don't trust women.' Another woman told me this and she said the other women in the work situation were untrustworthy and I should be very careful about that.

And it was a surprise to me because in my whole professional life women have always been the contacts, the support -- they have always been kind and informational. It is women who I have almost always had as mentors and sources of assistance, so I was really shocked by that and I am glad I did not heed it. But it reminded me that there were people before me who came from a different time.

The advice I would give to professional women in philanthropy is be positive. I think women want to help other women. I think women want other women to succeed."

Best Professional Advice
"The best advice I ever received was to stop apologizing, and to present yourself with assurance. Even if you feel unsure, present yourself as someone who is trustworthy, a leader, and has something to say, and you will be treated that way."

Iris Krieg is the Executive Director of Bright Promises Foundation and serves as a CWIP Mentor.  Our sincere thanks to her for founding Chicago Women in Philanthropy!

Tags:  Getting to Know our Members  Iris Krieg 

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