Ask an expert - Andrea Sidorow, Giving Circle co-chair
Last updated 1/23/2020 at 8:52am | View PDF
How does the West Suburban Giving Circle work?
Since 1985 the Chicago Foundation for Women has worked to improve the community through its support of organizations that benefit women and girls. That work spread to the western suburbs with the launch of the West Suburban Giving Circle a little more than four years ago.
The West Suburban Giving Circle is one of six organizations that share and drive the Chicago Foundation for Women's mission to "invest in women and girls as catalysts, building strong communities for all." Along with three regional giving circles based on the North Shore, South Side and west suburbs, three giving councils focus on the needs of specific populations within the female community - LBTQ, young women and those representing cultural diversity.
"I really believe in the mission and the method of Chicago Foundation for Women," said Hinsdale resident Andrea Sidorow, co-chair of the west suburban group.
Sidorow said the giving circles and giving councils allow the Chicago Foundation for Women to reach communities that once were beyond the organization's scope and capacity.
"We're the eyes and the ears of the Chicago Foundation for Women out in the community," Sidorow said.
The 31 members of the West Suburban Giving Circle come from throughout the suburbs to seek out and support organizations that promote financial stability and violence prevention for women and girls. Each member gives a minimum annual gift. They then work together to determine the best use of their pooled funds.
A liaison from the Chicago Foundation for Women works with and supports the circles, but each local group decides for itself where its money goes. Sidorow said the grantmaking process gives circle members a chance to learn about the needs of the community, and by keeping their donations local, they can witness for themselves the impact of their support.
The West Suburban Giving Circle so far has distributed $89,800 to five organizations. 360 Youth Services of Naperville, The Alive Center, Family Shelter Service, Mutual Ground and Teen Parent Connection received financial support to continue their work to improve the lives of women and girls.
Now in its fifth giving cycle, the West Suburban Giving Circle will begin the process of grantmaking in early 2020. Members will nominate potential grantees and then work together to decide which to support. The process involves research, site visits and plenty of discussion.
"The discussions can get pretty intense," Sidorow said. But they allow her and other members to learn about the needs and challenges in their own community.
"I'm excited to be taking action to help remove those barriers," Sidorow said.
Sidorow said the women of the West Suburban Giving Circle share a worldview and a desire to make the world better. Yet despite their similarities, Sidorow said her fellow circle members come from various cultures, ethnicities and professional backgrounds. Despite living in Hinsdale for 30 years, Sidorow said the circle is helping her to know her community even better.
"I've really enjoyed getting to meet new friends and neighbors. It's been a great experience," Sidorow said.