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An Interview with Candice Payne - CWIP Blog

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 10, 2019

by Morgan Benson, CWIP member, Communications Committee member

In April, on a beautiful spring afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak over the phone with Candice Payne. Many of you will know her as the woman who paid for hotel rooms for homeless individuals in Chicago during the Polar Vortex earlier this year. If you aren’t familiar with her story, you can access a story on it here. Ms. Payne received an overwhelming response to her good deed—being featured on not only local news, but national news as well, including the N.Y. Times, Ellen DeGeneres’ Show, and others.

I was particularly moved by her story, not only as a beautiful example of a regular person helping others, but as an example of how philanthropy can happen in non-traditional ways. Her story, as a professional woman, a Chicago entrepreneur, and founder of her own nonprofit, Action for a Cause really captured my attention and that of our CWIP communications committee. Here is my interview with Candice on what it means to give, how this experience has changed her, and her hopes for what comes next. 

 

I know you are a busy woman and I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me so that I can share a little bit about your experience and how it relates to people who work in fundraising and philanthropy so that I can share it with members of CWIP and people who follow our blog.

You’re welcome, no problem.

Most people in Chicago and those reading this blog are pretty familiar with your story—you’ve been on both local and national news, including the Ellen DeGeneres show. But I just wondered, within the lens of people who give to nonprofits and give philanthropically, had you ever done anything like this before?

Yes, I had. This last school year, we decided to buy 500 bookbags filled with supplies for the beginning of school. We put them in our pickup truck and drove through what I would call less fortunate areas—we drove through some of Roseland, Englewood, and other areas giving our bookbags. We do things like that, but this here [paying for hotel rooms for homeless individuals] just got so much publicity. So, different things that we can do to give back.

So, along those lines, what would you say that philanthropy means to you?

Well, for me, it doesn’t always necessarily need to mean something monetary. You know, if you have a gift of knowledge in whatever field, sharing that can be a gift. Whether a person is starting a career or a business, philanthropy doesn’t have to mean giving money. I think, that it is a spirit of being open to helping someone.

Yes, I agree with that completely. Now, your story has received a lot of coverage, and in reading more about your gift, I heard that you started a nonprofit—Action for a Cause. Was that a direct result of the gift of housing the homeless during the polar vortex and the publicity you received?

No, it was something we were already doing. Action for a Cause was established two years ago, but I hadn’t really done much with it though until now. I established a nonprofit, I knew I wanted to do something to help others, I just didn’t know what or how. I didn’t know where to focus—if I wanted to help battered women, if I just wanted to help children, if I wanted to mentor felons coming out of the prison system. I wanted to help somehow—I just didn’t know how. The polar vortex allowed me—over those five days—to see what my purpose could be. Knowing that that situation was so temporary—that those hotels rooms were only for a few days—made me realize that finding a more permanent solution was my purpose. So I came to the realization that, you know what, that I can use my passion for real estate, and actually help the homeless get off the streets. Can I stop homelessness? No, but I can do my part. And so that’s where Action For a Cause came into fruition. So its been here, it’s just been sitting on the shelf.

Would you say that there is anything particular to your experience—as a woman, as a female business owner, or anything else unique to you—that really shaped or contributed to your decision to give back in this way?

Well, I would say that around this time, a lot of people have become numb to homelessness, and the reason being is that on every corner you see it—walking downtown, every block you see it, so you put up this shield and become numb. Doing that, some people lose their compassion, and when you lose your compassion you pass them and just ignore them. And I think for me, when I see them, my compassion has grown even more because I feel like I should stop and talk to them. Everyone has their own story, and it’s not what the misconceptions are. The misconceptions are that homeless people are lazy, that they don’t want to work, and that they made these choices to be where they are in life. But that’s just not the case. You know, for me, like I said, years ago, I knew I wanted to do something to help—no I’m not rich, I don’t have a lot, but I can spread the knowledge that I do know the people to help them. And what I do have, I’m willing to give.

What sort of feedback have you received from the community, from individuals, from other nonprofits that has surprised you or been unexpected?

Yeah, I was not expecting this—that there would be so many people that wanted to help. From me, posting on social media—I was offering people money to come help. I didn’t know, I wasn’t aware that so many people just wanted to help but didn’t know how or didn’t know where to start. So, this was a new avenue for them to help, you know—I have a car, I can do this or I can do that. So, I received a lot, a lot, a lot of support. I’ve gotten several other nonprofits that actually reached out to me that want to connect. And I haven’t gotten through them all—there have just been so many—but it’s a lot of support. And that further let’s me know that people want to help, people just need to know how—they need the resources.

So, after all this, what comes next? For you, for your organization. Where do you see the work that you and your organization are doing going in the next 5 years?

Well, with the nonprofit I am still learning a lot of the ins-and-outs of running a nonprofit. I’ve been in business before, I’ve had businesses, I understand business—but the nonprofit is a whole different ballgame. So I am still learning a lot about that, but I close on the first multi-unit building in about two weeks, I’m working with the Cook County Land Bank, and we are going to start the renovation on that, and I hope that we can acquire a lot more. We are going to put together a fundraiser, to raise money to acquire a lot more real estate to do this work as part of our mission.

Very cool! That’s really exciting

So, my last question is: given the audience of women in Chicago who work in fundraising and philanthropy, if you could share one lesson, one takeaway from your experience with women working in philanthropy about how to engage people in giving, what would that be?

Well, what I did is I went to social media, and you know, currently social media is a big outlet for a lot of people, and it actually gets people in contact with each other to connect. So I would say, utilize your social media, and have an idea, put it out there. A lot of people want to do something, but don’t know where to start, and don’t have a lot of money. But it’s not always necessarily the truth that they need money to get involved. Because people can help other people, and they can also help you to get the money to do the work. So, I would say using social media more actively to get people engaged.

Great, thank you so much. We so appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and share your story with our members!

Tags:  blog  chicago  interview  philanthropy 

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2018 Annual Meeting Photos

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 6, 2018

We had a blast at our Annual Meeting & Awards Ceremony and the photos show it! Check out the photo album on our Facebook.

Tags:  Annual Meeting  CWIP Events 

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Comcast's CWIP Annual Luncheon Coverage

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Check out this inspiring video that Comcast put together for our Annual Luncheon honoring Grace Hou of Woods Fund Chicago

 

Tags:  Annual Luncheon  Blog  Comcast  CWIP  CWIP Events  News  Wonder Woman Unicorn 

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A Woman Among Many In Non-Profits

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Written by Alexis Allegra

 

"Before transitioning into a career as a consultant, I spent almost 15 years working in mostly mid-size social service agencies in Detroit, New York and Chicago.  In all that time, I had a male boss for approximately four months.  I worked for women at all levels – my boss’ boss and probably even higher than that when I first started out.  My counterparts on senior leadership teams were overwhelmingly female and the majority of the staff I managed throughout the years were women. 

 

I feel grateful and lucky to have worked alongside these passionate, intelligent, brave and committed souls.  I can truly say that I have learned something about myself or others from each and every one of the women I have served with.  What I am perhaps most grateful for though, is what I didn’t experience as a result of working in the non-profit sector.  I have never experienced sexual harassment at work. 

 

Yes, you read that right. 

 

I have never been passed up for a promotion because there was a man ahead of me who was more sure of himself, or just more vocal.  I have never been made to feel like my accomplishments and hard work alone weren’t enough to get me where I wanted to go.  And I’ve never been in a meeting and felt dismissed or like my voice wasn’t heard simply because it was a female voice.

 

Have I experienced intimidation, sexual harassment or molestation in other areas of my life?  Yes, of course I have.

 

But I’m quite aware of the fact that my experiences in the workplace are likely outside the norm.  I don’t know corporate culture.  I’ve never worked in the hospitality or service industry.  I am a straight, white, highly educated woman from an upper middle-class background.  I own all of these things that likely contributed to my personal professional journey.   And I’m so incredibly grateful for the non-profit world in which I’ve worked – where I have felt safe and empowered by so many amazing women.  So, while many non-profit organizations continue to struggle with defining their culture and finding ways to ensure their employees feel valued in the absence of pay raises and bonuses, this is one way that perhaps they can be ahead of the curve. 

 

And it should go without saying, that though my experiences may differ, I plan to be an ally and an advocate for all the women out there who continue the fight for equality and protection in the workplace."

Tags:  Blog  CWIP  Non-Profit 

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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 www.cwiponline.org

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 www.cwiponline.org.

 

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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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