Giving is the New Black: ILGive for Giving Tuesday is December 1

By Eric Weinheimer, President & CEO, Forefront and the #ILGive Team


We give thanks on Thanksgiving, go to the mall on Black Friday, and browse the web on Cyber Monday. Now, we have a day dedicated to giving back. On #ILGive for Giving Tuesday (December 1), nonprofit organizations, families, local businesses, and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.


Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media, people power, and collaboration. Observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of organizations participating in spreading awareness and rallying communities. To date there are 40+ civic campaigns across the US harnessing the power of social media and goodwill driving charitable contributions to favorite causes and organizations.

Since its inception, the movement has gained 30,000 partners in over 60 countries and it is estimated that online donations have jumped 470% since #GivingTuesday was born in 2012.

Based in Chicago, #ILGive (pronounced “I’ll Give”) is in its second year as the statewide campaign for #GivingTuesday. Launched in 2014 by Forefront (previously Donors Forum), the state association for foundations and charitable nonprofits, the campaign mobilized thousands of people to donate nearly $4 million to their favorite causes in one day in its first year.

(How you can tell this is the giving season: All donations are meant to go directly to the organizations donated to.)

This year, #ILGive is raising the bar — $6 million is the bold goal. Over 300 charitable nonprofits have joined the campaign and now is the time for donors to start thinking about ways to prepare for the big day.

How Can You Be a Part of #ILGive on #ILGive?

  • Pledge to Give to your favorite cause on Dec 1 – and then share it on your social media channels.

  • If you don’t already have a cause you donate to, check out ILGive’s list of participating #ILGive nonprofits to help you find a cause to give to on ILGive (Dec 1).

  • Set up a profile on Public Good. You can search for organizations working close to your home or that are working on causes close to your heart.

How Can Your Family Be a Part of #ILGive on Dec 1?

  • For a week or two, everyone in the family skips the ‘extras.’ Take the money you would have spent and collect in a jar. Watch it grow and donate to your favorite cause!

  • Claim your profile on Public Good and compete to be your cause’s biggest supporter.

  • Be a social media ambassador. Help an organization you care about raise awareness by sharing the work they do on social media using the #ILGive hashtag.

  • Have a conversation with your family about a cause that all of you can support. Donate to an organization that supports that cause.

  • Hold a neighborhood yard or bake sale and donate the proceeds to a shared cause.

  • Rather than purchasing gifts for the holiday season, go all out for your cause. Ask friends and family to donate to your organization on Tues., Dec. 1.

Why give? It feels good, it does good, and, ultimately, giving to worthy organizations makes our neighborhoods and families stronger. With campaigns like #ILGive for Giving Tuesday raising awareness, maybe giving back will be the indispensable gift this holiday season.


Join the movement and visit to learn more about how you can make a difference. Contact Marlee Honcoop ( and Delia Coleman ( for questions about the campaign.


#ILGive is a statewide, non-partisan movement to support nonprofit communities in Illinois by increasing individual giving. #ILGive is a multi-year initiative that will launch on December 1, 2015 as a compliment to the nationwide #GivingTuesday campaign. It is our goal to unite the state of Illinois in celebrating the contributions nonprofits make and to promote the values of philanthropy.



November 2015 Associate Board Spotlight: Make-A-Wish Illinois Associate Board

In advance of an exciting fundraiser happening this Saturday, November 14th, CharityScenes spoke with Peter Du, member of the Make-A-Wish Illinois Associate Board. Peter joined the board earlier this year after spending some time volunteering with the organization.

CharityScenes (“CS”): What attracted you to the board?

Peter Du (“PD”): After spending some time as a volunteer, I developed a strong connection to the cause. Make-a-Wish Illinois grants over 700 wishes per year to children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, and it is very fulfilling to help make those fun opportunities possible.

CS: Can you tell us about the associate board and its role in the Make-a-Wish Illinois organization?

PD: Sure, we are tasked with raising as much money as possible to grant as many wishes as possible! Through 3 events throughout the year, we raise money as well as overall awareness for the organization. There are about 45 members of the associate board representing a diverse group of young professionals. I think the diversity is critical to the success of the board; we are very productive in our brainstorming and event planning because we have access to many different skill sets and networks.

CS: What are some of the other events, besides the upcoming I Wish to Party, that your board plans and hosts?

PD: We try to vary our events to appeal to some different crowds. You’ll see that our upcoming event is a more formal cocktail event, but some of our other events are more casual. We host a walk/run at Montrose beach as well as a bags tournament. 

CS: What has been your experience on the board so far?

PD: It has been really rewarding. Given I had already been a volunteer and am passionate about the cause, it has been fun to use the skills from my work in a way that benefits Make-a-Wish Illinois. I’m in communications/public relations which has been useful when planning the upcoming I Wish to Party event and marketing to get young professionals to attend the event. I expect that the different way I’m marketing here may be transferable to my role at work at some point in the future.

I’d also say that it’s been a great networking tool. There’s very much a team atmosphere when planning these events, as everyone is obviously a volunteer and can’t always dedicate 100% of their time to planning. People are quick to step in and help others with various tasks, which quickly fosters new friendships.

One other thing to point out about our board is that we had tremendous support from the Make-a-Wish Illinois parent organization. We have a really helpful staff liaison and good relationship with the Board of Directors with some cross participation at events and an associate board member attending meetings of the Board of Directors.

CS: What was your process for joining the board? How would prospective members decide to apply and get accepted?

PD: I attended a few associate board events and recommend anyone who is interested comes to our event on Saturday to learn more! It’ll be a great opportunity to talk to current board members and volunteers. Aside from that there is a several page application to fill out and an interview. We want to make sure people are serious about committing to this board. After joining there is a $150 membership fee for dues and a $6,000 fundraising commitment which can be obtained through donations, sponsorships, ticket sales, etc.

CS: Thanks for taking the time!

PD: Of course! To learn more, stop by our event at Revel on Saturday, check out our facebook pageor the Make-a-Wish Illinois website!

October 2015 Associate Board Spotlight: Young Women's Giving Council

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.

Want to learn more? Check out their website for more info!

Best from the Web: September 14, 2015

As CharityScenes continues to grow, we’re getting a better sense of our readership. Here are some articles we’ve been reading which you might find interesting…or maybe not. Leave us a note in the comments!

September 2015 Associate Board Spotlight: Changing Worlds

“There are a lot of great non-profits focused on arts and literacy throughout Chicago, but what makes Changing Worlds, and it’s associate board, different is that we incorporate lessons about culture and communities. We think that part is really important,” says Patricia Borowiec, one of the co-chairs of the associate board. CharityScenes had a chance to speak with Patricia and her co-chair, Melissa Chaidez, recently to learn more about the eight year old Changing Worlds associate board. The board is active, vibrant, and engaged, and the young professionals involved cover a range of industries and careers. Take a look below to see what this board is all about!

  • Size: between 10 to 20 people
  • Frequency of meetings: once per month
  • Corporations represented on the board: McCormick Foundation, United Airlines, State of Illinois, Academy for Global Citizenship, Grosvenor Capital Management, etc...
  • Cause: Changing Worlds - a 19 year old local Chicago non-profit aiming to foster inclusive communities through
    • In school and after school partnerships
    • Teacher professional development
    • Traveling exhibits and community outreach initiatives
  • Recent fundraisers: trivia night, hambingo, arts and crafts at Lagunitas, and more!
  • Volunteering: for individuals interested in volunteer opportunities outside of business hours. Other volunteer opportunities exist for board members, but are not a requirement to join the board. 
  • Who might want to join? Anyone! Changing Worlds Associate Board is definitely a great place for any young professional new to associate boards - there are a lot of opportunities to learn and become involved, and as with any board, turnover presents chances to take on new roles and tasks through the year(s)
  • Upcoming initiatives: Changing Worlds Associate Board continues to grow and wants to get the word out! In addition to increased marketing and awareness initiatives, they are open to partnering with other associate boards for events, ideas, and more.
  • Want to learn more? Check out facebook or their website

Melissa shared that they’ve had a lot of success with the fundraising events as they give members and supporters the opportunity to network, engage in an activity, and learn about the Changing Worlds programming. For example, at a recent fundraiser at Lagunitas Brewery, attendees were asked to point  mark on a global map out where their origins were and then create a family crest. This naturally gave people an opportunity to introduce themselves and make connections, while also getting an idea of the types of activities children will participate in during their time with Changing Worlds. After the icebreaker, attendees socialize and have casual activities to keep them engaged! If you’re interested in learning more about the board, you’ll find it easy to mix and mingle at these events :)

August 2015 Associate Board Spotlight: Girls on the Run Chicago

Are you interested in a cause that helps young girls chase their dreams? Maybe you’re interested in running for a leadership position? Girls on the Run is a well-established board which, for the past 10 years, has allowed young professionals to fundraise, volunteer and raise awareness for a program that empowers young girls.  CharityScenes recently had the privilege of speaking with Alice Kovacik, staff liaison to the board, and Abigail Vallicelli. Abigail has been on the Associate Board since 2010, serving as President of the Board for the past year and recently having handed over the reins to another experienced board member, Meghan Boland.

Tell us about Girls on the Run-Chicago

Abigail: Girls on the Run is a great organization that provides programming to young girls. The focus is as much on building self-confidence and inspiring girls as it is on the running itself. The girls work together through a variety of activities, and our 12 week curriculum culminates with each girl running a 5k.  

Tell us about the board members and what each member’s responsibility is.

Alice: Board members are asked to pay $50 in dues as well as meet the give/get of $500 and meet a volunteer hour commitment. Each member sits on a committee (membership, social, events, or public relations) and is asked to serve for 2 years. Members are given a number of opportunities to volunteer at the organization’s annual 5k events and are invited to volunteer in other capacities periodically throughout their tenure.

Abigail: Our members range in age from right out of school to early 40s. Some of our members have their own families and we recently had a fundraiser that was geared towards families with younger kids. (It was very successful!). Right now, our board of about 40 members is all women, but we’re definitely open to having men on the board! It’s also important to note that our board members come from a variety of professional backgrounds, so it’s been a beneficial networking tool for members.

Are all the board members serious runners?

Alice: Some are serious runners, but I think it would be more accurate to say a good number of our board members are casual runners. I was not a runner before joining Girls on the Run as a staff member and now really enjoy it! More importantly, though, people are drawn to the board for the mission, which is to “inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”

What types of opportunities are available to board members?

Alice: All members are a part of a committee, so there is an opportunity to develop skills in an area you are familiar with, or alternatively, gain new skills in an area you are not familiar with. Each year board members are given the opportunity to switch committees (but are not required to) in order to try something new.  We found that to be a good exercise as people were asked to be a little more creative by adopting a new role. Other opportunities for board members include supporting our staff with distributing program materials to our volunteer coaches, overseeing a group of volunteers at our 5k events, and visiting program sites across the Chicagoland area.

Abigail: There are fun opportunities too! We’ve had some really fun (and sold out) events in the past – tour of Lagunitas Brewery, bags tournament, March Madness events, etc. We have also been given exposure to the board of directors in the past, so that has been a beneficial experience as well.

What else should we know about Girls on the Run?

Alice: And you should know that applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so we’re open to new members at any time.

Now don’t all race to apply at once!

July 2015 Associate Board Spotlight: YMCA Metro Chicago

As a new board having formed only in April of last year, you might think YMCA of Metro Chicago is still in its development stage. Not so, says John Tocora, President of the Associate Board and Vice President at BNY Mellon. John and other initial board members were extremely diligent when structuring and planning for the board. Now that the groundwork has been set, the board is poised for tremendous growth and opportunity focusing on the four pillars of the YMCA:

1)  Academic readiness
2) Character development
3) Violence prevention
4) Fitness and healthy living

The Associate Board has tasked themselves with supporting the YMCA through these four pillars and is now filling out the general member population with young professionals who would like to take on planning volunteer and other events related to these ideas. For instance, the Associate Board recently visited Kelly Hall YMCA in Humboldt Park which is slated to lose funding. After hearing from kids who regularly visit and depend on their local YMCA, the Associate Board launched a successful online fundraising campaign.


“We expect general members to help us cultivate ideas for similar programming and execute within the structure we have established for the board,” says John, “Given the range of causes and potential activities to support those causes, we expect our board to continue to grow to be quite diverse.” So far, that’s been true of the board. Members come from a variety of professional backgrounds and range in age from 22 – 45. John says this is unique to YMCA board; the board is strengthened by the energy and enthusiasm of the recently graduated population, but benefits from the wisdom of the more experienced members. “There’s a role for anyone who wants to be involved.” Outside of the programming committee, members can join the fundraising committee or board development committee (which focuses on recruitment and potentially member mentorship) and are expected to participate in the quarterly meetings.


To date, the YMCA Metro Chicago Associate Board has been a powerful source of raising funds and awareness through their prior experiences outside of the YMCA. John serves on the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and constantly draws on that experience for new ideas and to resolve challenges related to the Associate Board. He also took that perspective into account to ensure the Associate Board would have a meaningful role within the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s broader structure. John is currently working on developing the relationship between the YMCA’s board of directors and the associate board to provide meaningful networking opportunities and a path for associate board members to become board of directors members.


What else should people know about the YMCA’s Associate Board? “It’s about responsibility, not accountability.” Successful board members will feel connected to one (or more!) of the four pillars, volunteer in a meaningful way, and raise funds and awareness for the great work that the YMCA does across metro Chicago. Current and future board members feel a responsibility to give back and support families and youth in our community versus being held accountable to raise a specific dollar amount or volunteer a certain number of times. “We’ve built a really great board so far and know that the mission of the YMCA will attract more great members. I’m really excited to be a part of such an impressive board.”


Want to learn more? Check out their website and stay tuned for the follow up blog post soon to be featured on the All A-Board Alliance website.

Best from the Web - June 16, 2015

While we've been busy at work on some upcoming CharityScenes improvements, here are some interesting articles we've come across:

1) The Rockefeller Foundation seems to know a thing or two about philanthropy, so we were happy to see this post from their President, Judith Rodin: State of Philanthropy: Why Millennials Will Revive the Nonprofit Sector

2) Five Ways to Attract Young Professionals to Your Non-Profit 

3) Our associate board of the month is getting some more great recognition: Spring gala scene sets records for fundraising 

June 2015 Associate Board Spotlight: City Year

CharityScenes recently sat down with Rachel Gerds, current co-chair of the Associate Board, and Corey Young, current staff liaison to the board. We were delighted to hear all the exciting things going on at City Year Chicago now. If you’re interested in joining a board that is growing and changing, now is a great time to check out City Year Chicago!


CharityScenes: Tell us about City Year and the Associate Board – what does the organization do and what is the role of the Associate Board?

Corey: is an education-focused organization dedicated to helping students and schools succeed. City Year partners with public schools in 26 urban, high-poverty communities across the U.S. and through international affiliates in the U.K. and Johannesburg, South Africa. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members provide high-impact student, classroom and school-wide support, to help students stay in school and on track to graduate from high school. The Associate Board is committed to supporting and promoting City Year and its AmeriCorps members by generating financial support, promoting City Year's brand, and providing mentorship and other forms of assistance to AmeriCorps members.

CharityScenes: Can you talk about the reach of your organization and plans for growth?

Corey: Today, roughly 50% of the 1 million students who drop out each year come from only 12% of schools. City Year has worked with Deloitte to devise a long term impact plan (LTI)  to reach as many of these students as possible in these schools. For example, in Chicago we currently serve in 21 schools, but at scale we would be in about 39 schools with a corps about double the size it is today. As the organization scales, so will the Associate Board. The Associate Board is currently strategizing to better align with City Year's LTI, as a result, we are looking to grow the board from about 30 members to about 50 by the end of the year.

CharityScenes: What is it like to be on the Associate Board?

Rachel: I’ve been on the board for five years after falling in love with the organization at an event. I met some of the corps members and was really impressed by their passion and poise, and wanted to do something to support them. Along the way, I’ve also met lots of new people, have used the board as a great networking tool, and have been able to stretch myself professionally.

CharityScenes: Can you elaborate on that? How has the board helped you develop professionally?

Rachel: At BMO, I manage digital content, which involves creativity and strategic planning. Through fundraising and event planning on the board, I’ve been able to use these skills with a different application. I’ve also developed my leadership skills as the co-chair. Similarly, I take on a mentorship type role when I meet with corps members looking to begin a career in marketing after their year as a volunteer.

CharityScenes: What types of fundraising and event planning have you been doing?

Corey: The Associate Board hosts a number of events throughout the year. Each fall, they host their signature event, the Back to School Soiree, but they also host smaller networking and social events such as a night at the Laugh Factory and trivia night.  Looking forward, we hope to borrow an idea from the City Year New York Associate Board and host lunch and learn type of events. They have had great success and there seems to be a demand for that in Chicago as well. The Associate Board meets bi-monthly throughout the year, as well as attends a portion of the Site Board Annual Retreat, among other City Year events.

CharityScenes: What are you looking for in prospective board members? And what will board members get out of their experience?

Rachel: We’re looking for some young professionals to fill a few gaps in skill set of the current board and we'd like to find some more connections with donors, media, etc. That said, we’re primarily looking for members who are passionate about the cause and can make some time to give back.  Our board is pretty well organized, so prospective members looking to take on a leadership role and gain a new network will be happy on our board.  For me, just being involved with this cause and giving back has been very rewarding.

CharityScenes: How do I sign up?!

Corey: We accept applications on a rolling basis and confer new members on a quarterly basis. Check out to learn more.

The HR case for Non-profit Involvement: Centro

Centro has topped the Crain’s Chicago “Best Places to Work” list every year since 2011. The online advertising firm values its employees and rewards them with impressive financial benefits and also some really fun benefits: farmers markets at the office, free yoga, snack bars and more. If you’re reading this and thinking you might spruce up your resume to apply, you’re not the only one. Senior recruiting coordinator at Centro, Ian Brunner, reviews a ton of incoming resumes and gives us some tips on how use your non-profit experience to distinguish yourself. Check out the insights below, whether you’re applying to Centro, interviewing at another firm, or just looking to improve your value at work!  

Non-profit involvement

The Talent Acquisition team at Centro views non-profit/volunteer/associate board involvement on applicant resumes very highly, especially for lower level roles.  One of the main things we look for on a candidate’s resume is passion for the job they are doing (or want to do) and the industry they are working in (or want to work in).  We understand that a lot of our entry level candidates have most likely not had the opportunity to have a full-time job in the industry yet, so we instead are looking for candidates that take the initiative to get involved in a lot of the free industry-specific groups, meetups, organizations, and associations that offer a foot-in-the-door to anyone that is interested in learning and growing in the industry.  For a candidate, aside from the benefit of being able to put the non-profit/volunteer/associate board involvement on your resume, these opportunities are also an incredible way to network and potentially meet individuals at companies you would like to work for!

Marketing your Non-profit Experience

Whenever our team gets asked questions from candidates or students regarding how to structure a resume or make sure that their skills are being properly represented, we always like to try and get them to think like a recruiter.  A recruiter only spends an average of 6 seconds on each resume they look at, so a candidate needs to make sure that their most relevant skills are not buried towards the end of their resume.  A great way to do this is to really study the job description for a role because a job description is essentially a cheat sheet for what the organization is looking for when hiring for a position.  If there are certain qualifications highlighted or toward the top of the job description, these are obviously things that the company values highly and a candidate’s resume should emphasize how the candidate meets those qualifications. 


Anything a candidate puts on a resume is fair game for a recruiter to ask questions about and there is nothing that will make a candidate look worse than when they are asked about something on their resume and are unable to talk about it.  If a candidate puts on their resume that they learned A, B, and C things at a certain non-profit, they should know A, B, and C inside-out and be able to explain how A, B, and C make them perfect for the role that they want. Some examples of questions might be:

- “Why did you make the decision to become a part of this particular non-profit or organization?”
- “What is an interesting project or task that you got to work on and what is a new skill that you learned to complete that project or task?”
- “What is one misconception that you had about the industry that was changed during your time at the non-profit or organization?”
- “What are some things that you learned at that non-profit or organization that you feel would make you a great fit for a position with us?”

Maximizing your Non-profit experience for professional development

If a candidate is getting involved in volunteer activities and board roles to make them more desirable to an employer, then yes, they should definitely focus on industry-specific activities and roles.  A great way for a candidate to determine which activities to get involved in is to search through employee profiles for individuals that are already a part of the company that the candidate wants to be a part of.  Make a list of the activities or groups that are showing up most frequently and then go to work on determining how to get involved with the activities or groups on that list.  Again, not only will joining these groups help a candidate get industry knowledge, it may also lead to some incredible networking opportunities.

Centro’s Stance

Centro encourages employees to get involved in anything and everything that they are interested in or that will help them grow as an individual.  We are extremely invested in making sure we are encouraging our Centrons to become the best versions of themselves. 

One great thing about Centro, as opposed to many other companies out there, is that rather than requiring employees to be involved in any particular social activity or group event, Centro provides an environment where community outreach and learning are integrated within our day-to-day and not forced upon anyone.  Centro allows each individual at Centro a “change-the-world” day (on top of our already generous PTO policy) to let our employees take off and engage in whatever sort of community outreach or charitable program they feel passionately about.  Centro also offers a companywide donation match up to $100 per employee to allow employees to give to the charities that they feel most strongly about.  We also have a Giving Tree committee that is focused on organizing frequent volunteer events within the organization for larger more immediate needs that people at our company may be passionate about (ex. disaster relief, participation in community events, etc.).

More ways to give!

In my last blog post, I offered a list of invaluable resources to make the impossible task of spending money just a little bit easier. It's so hard, right? You're welcome.

In all seriousness, it can be tough figuring out how to optimize the impact of your hard-earned cash when you're ready to make a charitable donation. Similarly, when you find yourself holding onto useful items for which you no longer have need (think clothes, electronics, etc.), it’s all too easy to throw them in the trash. Finding a good home takes time and effort; luckily, several organizations are ready to take those donations off your hands and put them to better use.   

1)      Zealous Good – This Chicago organization is awesome. Choose from a number of categories of goods you want to donate. Provide a description, a picture and a value. Then comes the best part…they’ll pick it up! Could it be any easier? 

2)      Goodwill – We’ve all been there to snag an ugly sweater for the holidays, but have you thought about giving away lightly used clothes and furniture? Goodwill may pick up your items if you have a lot to give, but if you have time, I suggest dropping by the store in person (1201 W. Washington in Chicago). You’ll feel good handing off your donations to the Goodwill employee who is gaining valuable job training and professional skills thanks to contributions like yours.

3)      Dress for Success – Support this Chicago-headquartered organization that helps women build confidence and career skills by donating business attire.

4)      Chicago Shares – Visit the website to purchase “Chicago Shares Vouchers,” which are one-dollar vouchers (sold in $5 increments) that can only be used for food and toiletries at designated locations throughout the Loop and River North. Once they've arrived in the mail, keep them in your bag or wallet so you have them on hand when you pass someone less fortunate or homeless. If you have ever had doubts handing over a fiver to a stranger on the street, Chicago Cares Vouchers are a great alternative! 

5)      Anything else – I could keep blogging, but Miss Minimalist has already done the work for me by putting together a wonderful list of donation recipients categorized by item type!

Making Meaningful Donations

I had the idea for this blog post over a month ago and meant to write it then, but things have been busy at CharityScenes. Not to mention, I have a full time job, which is... well... a full time job! All work and no play has left a few extra bucks in my pocket, so while donating my time is difficult right now, I can definitely find a few minutes to write a check or click a button. I can feel pretty good about it, too; cash donations are often the most needed and impactful way to contribute.

That said, as a donor, it’s okay to be critical and ask questions to ensure your hard earned money will be put to good use. Some non-profits are just better at this than others. Today’s post will highlight some great resources that help ensure your change ($) goes towards real change (<3)!

Let’s say you want to donate to the American Red Cross. Search "Red Cross" on CharityNavigator and a detailed profile of the non-profit will tell you the amount per dollar that goes toward programs & services ($0.90 at Red Cross – nice work!), how much goes toward administrative expenses like salaries or office space ($0.04), and how much goes toward raising more money ($0.06). You can also check out who else is donating (private grants, government funding, etc.), how money is spent (financial statements), and more. If you’re unsatisfied with the information you find, CharityNavigator makes it easy to check out charities similar to the one you just searched, or you can browse curated lists.

Similar to CharityNavigator, GuideStar provides a third party assessment of different charities. Unlike CharityNavigator, GuideStar offers in-depth background and evaluation information for larger charities to help you better understand how their numbers add up. Figures don’t look as strong as you hoped? There may be a reasonable explanation. GuideStar fills in those gaps so you can feel good about the trajectory of the organization and how your dollars will be spent going forward. 

Still not sure where to start? hosts a blog called Immediate Needs that features one story a month on giving to a particular cause. For example, diabetes is a national epidemic; Immediate Needs will highlight key points and background information with helpful insight, then serves up multiple options to which you can direct your resources (e.g. the American Diabetes Association, the Diabetes Research Institute, or the Joslin Diabetes Center).

Another place to start is your own backyard. Network for Good has a great search function that allows searching by zip code, so you can find a local organization to support and then read up on their activities. & CharityScenes

We wouldn’t be doing right by our own boards to ignore the fact that you can browse either site to find great non-profits with devoted young professional supporters in Chicago. Click through to associate board sites and find the “donate” button, or show financial support by making a donation to a fundraiser, even if you can’t attend.


So you’ve checked out the sites, donated your money and now you’re tight on cash? There’s still more you can do! Stay tuned for our next blog post to learn how to donate clothes, furniture, and other goods.



There are plenty of voices out there, from teachers to politicians to your mom’s text messages, telling you just how great it is to volunteer. Do good, feel good. It makes sense. Knowing you want to volunteer is the easy part. The hard part is… how?

Volunteer your PROFESSIONAL SERVICES – Catchafire is coming to Chicago! Whether your specialty is finance, marketing, website design, or something else, non-profits need your unique skill set, and Catchafire’s goal is to make the connection. This is a great option if you’re a busy professional; the work can often be done remotely and on your own schedule. Looking for something a little bit different but still want to volunteer your skills? Check out Taproot orRaise5

Volunteer REGULARLY – In keeping with the CharityScenes theme of associate boards, I have to make a plug for joining a volunteer-focused board. A lot of boards addressing education issues encourage board members to commit to a tutoring schedule. Similarly, boards focused on the environment or children have need for volunteers on a regular schedule and offer great opportunities to help on a routine basis. Scheduling recurring volunteer commitments in a way that works for you takes care of the guesswork. If boards aren’t your thing, check out VolunteerMatchChicago Non-Profit, and MeetUp for other ideas on regular volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer FOR A DAY – Young professionals these days are faced with a lot ofmaybes. Over the next few weeks, months, or year… maybe you’ll switch jobs. Maybe you’ll move. Maybe you’ll go back to school. Maybe signing up for a long-term commitment is just not something you can do right now, but you definitely still want to do some good in your community. Organizations like One Brick are the perfect solution. When your dinner reservation or work trip gets cancelled last minute, log on and sign up to pack food at a shelter, check people in at a fundraiser,  or stuff envelopes while chatting up fellow volunteers. Want to take part in a major one-day event? We Day is April 30, and Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon is June 27.

Volunteer WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES – Boss won’t give you the time off to volunteer? Bring the boss along! Many great organizations specialize in opportunities geared toward team building. Feed My Starving Children facilitates mobile sites that provide a convenient location for your team to pack meals for children in impoverished countries. Junior Achievement will team up with your company or organization to educate students and prepare them for the work environment. Or grab some colleagues and serve a meal at the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago.

Whatever your ability or availability, there are so many ways to do good and feel good!

Do you have volunteer opportunities or resources to share? Post in the comments below.

Cures for the Winter Blues

If you’re like me, right about now is when you’re done with winter. Bundling up to go outside is an ordeal. Thawing out once you get anywhere is a lengthy process. The thought of going to a bar just doesn’t have the same appeal it did when you could throw on sandals and hit a rooftop. If I’m leaving my warm apartment and Netflix, it better be for a really good reason and a really good time

Happy Hours. If you haven’t seen your friends since 2014, junior board happy hours are a great option: you know the bar will be lively (which is not the case for just any old bar in Chiberia), and since you’re giving to a worthwhile cause, you can feel good about drinking (it’s for the kids!). Can’t convince your friends? Junior board happy hours are also a great opportunity to go solo and network with board members; they’ll be more available there than when you find them at a labor-intensive gala, service project, or special event. Ready to get your cocktail on? See below for a few suggestions:

Thursday, March 5 – Imerman Angels @ John Barleycorn in River North ($60 ticket includes drinks and appetizers from 7-9pm)

Wednesday, March 11 – American Red Cross Auxiliary Society – Mingling for a Mission @ Moe’s Cantina ($20 for a drink, appetizers, silent auction and more from 6-9pm)

Galas. If getting out of the office in time for happy hour is out of the question, a gala is a great alternative. You have all day Saturday to mentally prepare for braving the cold, and once you’re there, the drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and dancing will keep you warm and glad you made the effort to go. Been dreaming of a nice beach getaway? Many galas have excellent silent auctions and raffle prizes that put your vacation fund toward a great cause (and you still get to stick your toes in the sand) Double win! See below for upcoming galas:

Saturday, March 7 – Canine Therapy Corps Young Professionals Board - Gala in the White City @ Revel ($105 for open bar and hors d’oeuvres)

Saturday, April 11 – University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Associate Board – Fund the Fight @ Moonlight Studios ($85 for early bird ticket)

Fun Runs. Have you been crushing it on the treadmill all winter long? Or maybe need that extra motivation to revisit your new year’s resolution? Signing up for a fun run (or walk) is a great way to get some friends together, get moving, and support a good cause. See a fun upcoming run below:

Saturday, March 14 – Illinois Science Council Associate Board @ 4 different locations ($31.41 for registration and post-race party)

What else? Running isn’t really your thing, but neither are parties or happy hours (just kidding, obviously – who doesn’t love happy hours?). But let's say you want to learn something, win something, or just need a more compelling reason to get your friends out on the town. Maybe you really want to meet people and engage with others at these events. Try a more unique fundraiser like the ones below:

Bowling – Sunday, March 8 – St. Jude’s Young Professionals – Sips and Strikes @ Southport Lanes ($45)

Wine tasting – Thursday, March 5 – The Safe Haven’s Young Professionals Board – Wine Tasting @ Que Syrah ($30 for 1, $50 for 2)

Find more fun events on the CharityScenes calendar!

How to Choose and Join a Junior Board

If you’re visiting this site, you’re probably a little bit curious… Do I just show up to a meeting? Do I have to apply? How often do I have to volunteer? How much do I have to pay? You may have asked one or all of these questions when deciding whether to join a board. It’s so much simpler than it seems!

1) Reach out to the boards that interest you. You already found CharityScenes, so you're halfway there! This handy site has links and email contacts for every board listed. Ask if you can attend a meeting or meet with a current member. You’ll get the best sense of a board and its membership requirements by meeting its members face-to-face.

2) Ask questions. What leadership roles are available? Where are your skills and experience needed? Are there opportunities to connect with the Board of Directors and socialize with other members? Ask about the specifics that matter to you so you can learn more about what you want from a board and what they want from you.

3) What if I don’t have the time? What if I travel for work? Keep searching! Some boards have very formal membership requirements, while others are happy to have whatever support you’re able to give.

4) I checked it out, but I don't think this is right for me. That's perfectly fine. You can still attend fundraisers to support great causes, volunteer one-off using sites like or, and share what you've learned about these organizations and their boards with your friends. Spreading the word is a good deed in and of itself! 

5 Reasons to Join an Associate Board

As young professionals, we deal with a lot, both personally and professionally. We are working towards a promotion, the next job opportunity, or grad school. We’re always on the hunt for fun ways to spend our weekends. We might find it challenging to meet new people, and sometimes we struggle to make time for the friends and family we already love or the co-workers we already value.

What if I told you that volunteering on a young professional board is the solution to these challenges? Here are 5 awesome benefits of joining a board.

1) No-pressure Networking: Meet people in your industry or people who work in completely different arenas. Maybe this will open doors professionally, or maybe it will just give you better perspective.

2) Learn new skills & build your resume: Not only does your experience on a non-profit board look good to future employers and graduate programs, but you can genuinely build new skills outside your current expertise. Work in finance? Join a marketing committee and learn how to advertise. Work in technology? Take on a leadership position and refine your management skills for the day you run the company.

3) Make new friends: You and your fellow board members will spend time working through challenges like budgeting and membership development, volunteering at fun volunteer events, and enjoying cocktails at fundraisers. Before you know it, your monthly meetings won’t come around quickly enough.

4) But keep the old: Maybe you join a board because you are already passionate about supporting education or raising awareness for a particular medical research initiative; maybe you join because you’re excited to learn more. Either way, you’ll host fundraisers and volunteer events where you can bring your friends, co-workers and families together for an event they’ll all love.

5) Give back: At the end of the day, nothing will compare to the satisfaction of seeing your efforts and donations combined with the resources of other hard-working young professionals to affect real change.

Don’t just take our word for it. There are over 150 young professional boards in Chicago whose work and members speak for themselves!