"Lasting Economic Security." A Chicago Funder's Approach to Gender Equity

photo:  kurhan/shutterstock

photo:  kurhan/shutterstock

One of the more interesting local foundations working for gender equity that we follow here at IP is the Chicago Foundation for Women. This is a grantmaker that has continually reached out to the community for feedback, forged an array of alliances to reach its goals, and been willing to support startups around town.

CWF supports a range of approaches to advancing gender equity, including grassroots organizing, advocacy, direct services, research, and education. In terms of issues, women’s economic security has been a top priority for CFW lately, and 30 of its most recent 44 grants were devoted to this cause. The total commitment from CFW’s most recent grantmaking cycle was $1,094,250.

The economic security grants come from the Eleanor Network, which was established in 2012 after the former Eleanor Foundation merged into CFW. The 30 grants noted above were made through the network, which works to make sure that Chicago-area women can find living wage jobs with benefits and advance in their chosen fields. Recent Eleanor Network grantees include the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Women Employed, and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

CFW’s president and CEO, K. Sujata, said:

Chicago Foundation for Women funds a continuum of services and initiatives to empower women to achieve lasting economic security. Education and workforce development programs give women and girls the skills to succeed, while support and stabilization services ensure women are able to stay on track to achieve their goals.

CFW’s funding goes to advocacy as well. This is a foundation that doesn’t just want to help individual women and their families. It also wants to give Chicago women a voice in shaping the policies that affect them and creating lasting change for future generations of women. One prominent focus is here is supporting reproductive justice for women and girls in Chicago. For example, CFW just made eight grants through a matching grant from the Catalyst Fund for Reproductive Justice at Groundswell. This fund supports organizations led by women of color that address issues like parental rights, reproductive choice, maternal health, and reproductive education for youth. Reproductive justice grants have recently gone to Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Arise Chicago, and the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health.

Groundswell isn’t the only funder that CFW has been working with lately to pursue its mission. CFW also partnered with the Chicago-based Polk Bros. Foundation to award grants for capacity building and to support emerging organizations. There’s been a notable shift in funders to give more for capacity building lately, as we've been reporting—both nationally and in Chicago.

CFW is also working with Asset Funders Network to support research about the economic security of aging and elderly women. And since 2013, a CFW partnership has also been in place with the Chicago-based Alphawood Foundation to support Chicago domestic violence agencies.

As a reminder, CFW isn't private foundation with its own endowment. It's a pass-through funder. Last year, CWF worked with more than 2,000 donors and local partners and funded 150 projects in four counties to serve 53,000 women and girls.

The next grant cycle for Spring 2018 will focus on health and freedom from violence, and ongoing funding is also available through CFW’s Strategic Response Fund, which provides grants up to $7,500 for urgent needs and is part of a partnership with the Polk Bros. Foundation.