Celebrating Women Leaders: Chicago Women in Philanthropy

Interview by Shay Upadhyay (5 minute read)

Chicago Women in Philanthropy (CWIP) is a community of philanthropic, corporate-giving and nonprofit women whose members are passionate about helping other women advance in society. Meet two of these women who are nothing short of powerhouses in the Chicago philanthropy scene and, among many roles, serve as Board Co-Chairs for CWIP.  Clare and Lindsey sat down with Shay Upadhyay, Client Service Associate at Alford Group to share their insights about this important work.

*These interviews were held via Zoom. The text below includes excerpts from the conversations with permission from all parties.

What drew you to CWIP?

Clare Butterfield, Chicago Women in Philanthropy: Pretty much the whole time I’ve been in a Grant maker role. When I was the Program Director at the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) I was asked to come and review proposals at Face to Face With Funders, a pre-pandemic signature program for CWIP. I’ve been part of the community since then. I love the way CWIP takes on the power balance head-on. We’re all in the sector working to make Chicago a better place. CWIP operates as a meeting place that is equal and welcoming. From the first moment I wandered into CWIP, I felt so welcome.

Lindsey Moorman, Chicago Women in Philanthropy: When I finished graduate school, I was still new to Chicago and looking to build my professional network. In my personal experience, CWIP rooms always felt the most organic, warm and welcoming. There was a genuine desire among everyone in the room to make meaningful connections, not just to further their career in some capacity. I was drawn to this positive, genuine energy so I joined CWIP and began volunteering on a committee. In the ten years since I’ve loved every opportunity to support and strengthen our work. This community is very special and the women within it inspire me daily.

How did you get involved with the philanthropic sector?

Clare: My background includes being a lawyer first. I worked at the IRS and then at a firm in Chicago. Then I went to seminary. Law defines the world as a set of conflicts with two sides and that felt inadequate to me, so I wanted to explore that further.

When I came out of seminary, I took a position at the Center for Neighborhood Technology to do interfaith environmental work and that’s what became the Faith in Place. I did that for about 14 years. Then I wanted to take a break from raising money but wanted to stay in the sector on the grant making side. In my role now, I still work alongside people who were my program officers or directors at Faith in Place. Their treatment of me stood out as a model for how I wanted to lead. They were encouraging and warm and took me seriously.

Lindsey: I moved to Chicago after college for graduate school and was anxious to learn more about the local philanthropic sector. Ahead of my current role as the Director of Foundation Relations at Feeding America, I worked in development at organizations such as the American Heart Association and AARP Foundation. I’ve now been at Feeding America for almost seven years and our CEO, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, inspires me immensely. What I have learned from Claire is that no matter your role in an organization, or where you are in your career, as women, our presence and time with one another is so valuable.

Women in my professional life that I consider mentors and friends have helped me chart my path forward. Something I learned early on from CWIP is that it isn’t the standard to have women leaders in the workplace who are willing to invest in you and your success.  I feel lucky to help provide and grow that support within CWIP for all our members to access.

What trends have you noticed among women working in this sector?

Clare: I would say that the leadership has shifted during my 25 years in the sector. When CWIP was founded 1981, it was predominantly male. That shift has been really evident. Many fields are now dominated by women. The next wave of feminism is going to have to be about us all together because we’ve made strides and the men have fallen back. If we love them, this should concern us. However, I would love for CWIP to remain the Chicago Women in Philanthropy.

Lindsey: The culture is shifting. This community is a place of comfort and a place of critical dialogue. We recognize there are disparities within our organizations from pay to growth and leadership opportunities, particularly for women of color. CWIP has a lot of opportunities to use our platform to address these disparities and work towards change.

What are some challenges that you witnessed both in the City of Chicago and nationwide?

Clare: We must be more adept, thoughtful and direct about addressing race. I’m a pragmatist and want to deal with data and facts. There are structural inequities in our systems that fall hardest on people of color, and they fall hardest of all on Black people. We should recognize that. In the sector, we should be forthright about addressing this so we can expand our sense of what’s possible. Individuals in our field are also underpaid and have been in absolute crisis in social services. There are not enough people and the expectations we put on individuals, mostly women, in these roles are ridiculous.

Lindsey: Just before the fall of Roe v. Wade, the Chicago Abortion Fund held a spotlight conversation through CWIP’s Friday Share Series. It was one of the most highly attended sessions. Women wanted to understand what this ruling meant, who was most at risk, and how we could use our voices. Clare and I, along with the rest of the CWIP Board, care about how we can continue to show up for each other and acknowledge our collective power. We have so much shared value to add to these conversations.

What are some ways you can see the culture of philanthropy changing?

Clare: I am most encouraged by all the young people I know. When I meet young people who are passionate, it is very difficult to be pessimistic about the future. I am excited by young people with different experiences and viewpoints.

Lindsey: I think historically philanthropy has focused on just filling the gaps where systems fail us. But more recently, particularly after COVID, we are starting to center the community voices that are most impacted by the system failures. Funders and social service organizations are starting to explore the question: how can we build local capacity and decrease reliance on larger systems all together? Often, communities know exactly what they need, they just need the resources to fuel it.

What are some ways we can support the next generation of women?

Clare: We are seeing women’s leadership at the largest foundations in Chicago. For folks who are further along in our careers, let’s give our last few years to mentoring and encouraging the younger professionals in our spheres. I love getting to see younger women around me figure out what their dreams are and then realize them!

Lindsey: At CWIP, it is our job as a membership organization to ensure that the work we’re doing is responsive to the needs of our members. We have such a wealth of expertise and experience within this community and our goal is to harness and share it. Women are uniquely positioned to make a meaningful impact in changing the issues that we’re facing as a society and across Chicagoland. It’s our time to listen and learn from one another, leverage our personal privilege, platforms, and resources to engage in this work and empower each other at every opportunity.

About the Interviewees

Clare Butterfield is a Board Co-Chair at CWIP and is Executive Director of the Christopher Family Foundation. In the past, she served as Program Director at the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation,  and founding Executive Director of Faith in Place. Clare believes teaching girls to be fierce and fearless is critical as we hand off responsibility for a troubled world to them.

Lindsey Moorman is a Board Co-Chair at CWIP and is currently the Director of Foundation Relations at Feeding America.  In the past, she has worked for nonprofits such as AARP and the American Heart Association. Lindsey is consistently inspired by women dedicating their time to one another to empower and lift up our collective voice.

Want to connect with more women leaders?
Chicago Women in Philanthropy (CWIP) invites Members and Nonmembers to attend their Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony and Networking Breakfast on Friday, August 18th, at 8:00 am. Click here to register.