Serving on an associate board can be a great way to mix a passion for service with professional development. The Young Women’s Giving Council of Chicago Foundation for Women recognizes this benefit to its members and has integrated both in its meetings and events. CharityScenes had the pleasure of chatting with three of the four co-chairs of the YWGC--Andrea McPike, Carrington Gregory, andLaura Phelan--and learning more about how they structure the board to make sure their members have a rewarding experience.
What made you want to get involved in the YWGC?
Laura Phelan: I was introduced to CFW when a co-worker invited me to a discussion on women in the workplace. By attending the event, I got on the listserv and stayed on it for the interesting content, even when I moved to another city. When I moved back to Chicago, I reached out to CFW for a way to volunteer or support it. That’s when I was told about the development boards, which are unique in having a grant making committee--not just fundraising for the larger organization. It’s an opportunity to take the money you raise and give out to the community and connect to a large philanthropic organization in the area.
Andrea McPike: In my first year outside of school, I was looking to have touch points with the community. I heard about CFW from a co-worker, and I was passionate about issues affecting women and girls but I didn’t know how to get involved. My first impression was that the YWGC is a great group of strong women who care about the issues CFW works to raise awareness about and address.
What is special about the YWGC’s grant making process?
Carrington Gregory: Our members are always excited to be a part of the grant making process. The larger organization gives us lots of control and input in the process and it’s a cooperative effort to not only grant out, but to be thoughtful in selecting who receives the money. We look at why we want to give to the grantees and we get to look through their programs and meet with the organizations before giving out the funds. It’s fantastic to spend the year fundraising in a big way, and then decide who deserves it.
LP: In addition to provide funds, we’re connecting emerging organizations to the larger organization [CFW]’s technical assistance; it helps them grow, and many have ended up receiving larger grants through the larger CFW Board.
How have you developed professionally through the YWGC?
LP: I would know a lot less about philanthropy, for one thing. I’ve participated in mentoring through CFW that has enabled me to meet with women who have been involved in philanthropy and increased my learning curve.
AM: Speed Mentoring is unique among events I’ve been to for professional development. It has allowed me to reconnect with women I look up to as well as network with other successful women with whom I may not have otherwise met. We’ve gotten great feedback from the mentors at this event as well as the mentees.
CG: Speed Mentoring, which usually is held in the spring, is our signature event: it helps us raise money but is a professional development and networking event, which is uniquely aligned with the mission and goals of the YWGC in a variety of ways.
Has anything about serving on the YWGC been particularly rewarding for you?
LP: It’s been an opportunity to meet other women in Chicago who are committed to supporting young women and girls. It helps us uncover how we can support them and support themselves. I enjoy the opportunity to speak to the organizations we’re raising money for to find out more about the work they’re doing and how the money we raise helps support women and girls in the Chicago.
CG: While the “correct” answer might be the difference we’re making in the community, personally, it has been working with like-minded women and coming together as a collaborative effort to tackle these issues. Young women put these awesome events on and the fundraising we do goes to help accomplish the mission and goals we share. I’ve been so impressed and empowered by talking to and learning from the other women sitting across the table from me at our meetings.
AP: The amount of control we have over the entire process from being able to decide what kind of fundraising events we want to put on over the course of the year to where we want to grant the money is something unique and satisfying. We’ve found some things that work and we’ve been open to new and different ideas, too. I love seeing the different industries have been brought together at events and meetings. I think that the biggest takeaway is that we can’t have one [collaboration among young women on the council] without the other [empowering young women and girls in Chicago]. They go hand in hand.
How can prospective members get involved? Do you do anything in particular to ensure member retention?
AP: Anyone who is interested can meet with any of the co-chairs to ask questions, and our meetings open to all who are interested. We alternate between monthly business meetings when we do event and council planning and social meetings where we have guest speakers and topical issues to discuss. We hope this makes meetings more stimulating for our members. All members have opportunities to step up into leadership roles, whether it’s leading events or serving on committees. I’m an example because after being involved for just one year, I’m able to serve as a co-chair.
CG: Our members make an annual contribution and are required to be involved in both group and individual fundraising as well as serving on a subcommittee.
LP: Our event committees chaired by members but supported by co-chairs, so there is opportunity for developing leadership. Two of the four co-chairs are focused on on-boarding and membership satisfaction. We recently did a survey of what members like or would like to change. We’ll be reaching out to the individuals to make sure that they can be connected with what they’re looking for throughout the year.
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