How This Local Women’s Foundation Gives Differently

A few months ago, we introduced you to the Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) and provided an overview of the funder’s giving priorities and process.

Related: What the Chicago Foundation for Women Supports around the City

Well, in an exclusive interview with Blue Sky, the foundation’s president and CEO, K. Sujata, reveals even more about what drives grantmaking in the city. In case you missed it, you can read the interview in the Chicago Tribune.

With a focus on equal opportunities and rights for women and girls, CFW funds female-focused nonprofits and startups. Sujata and her crew want to see women making just as much money as men, holding positions of equal power, and giving just as much to philanthropy as men. They also want to enlist the help of men to make all this happen.

Like many modern, community-focused giving machines around the country, such as the Brooklyn Community Foundation for example, CFW is reaching out to the public for inputsomething we love to see funders do. In the recent interview, Sujata described how the foundation polled over 500 people for input on its grantmaking focus areas: health, domestic violence, and economic security.

And what was the result of these hundreds of conversations?

Well, a big theme is that economic security is the key to advancing women in today’s society. So if women have the same financial opportunities as men do, they'll be better able to achieve other key goals, too.

So what else has CFW been concerned with lately?

Sujata isn’t too happy with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts for social services that affect women, the elderly, the homeless, the disabled and children. The philanthropic sector in Chicago and Illinois, she says, simpy won’t be able to pick up all the public sector’s slack regarding Medicaid, transportation subsidies, after-school programs, and preventative care health screenings.

Sujata wrote, “We need the leadership of our public partners. As much as we would like, we will never be able to fill the ever-widening gap in our social safety net once filled by the government. Our state’s most vulnerable children and families have already faced cut after cut. A budget that asks them to sacrifice even more is reprehensible.”

Another recent issue of concern is immigrant women and girls, especially their exposure to violence. “Program staff estimated that fully 100 percent of their immigrant women clients have experienced violence of some type,” said Kimberly Drew, the project manager of Economic Security Policy at Heartland Alliance, who has worked with CFW on a related report and civic plan.

The foundation has also gained some new perspectives this summer, with the introduction of three new co-chairs: Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty, Jerry Newton (Grace Allen Newton), an attorney and philanthropist, and Diane Whatton, director of U.S. Community Affairs at BMO Harris Bank. Eli Marsh is a new addition to the CFW staff and now serves as the philanthropic education officer.

So in conclusion, what sets this funder apart from others in the same sphere of philanthropy is its willingness to support startups, its dedication to getting men onboard, and its community outreach to stay attuned to the biggest needs.

Head to the foundation’s How to Apply page to take an eligibility quiz and keep up with grant cycles and deadlines.

Read our full Chicago Foundation for Women: Chicago Grants profile to learn more about this funder.