North Shore Giving Circle

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“I was interested in something more than just writing a check.”

Joan Bacon was looking to take a more active role in giving back and supporting women and girls in her community when her friend, and CFW board member, Virginia Holt proposed a North Shore Giving Circle.

“The concept of the giving circle, allowing me to have a hands on experience with grantmaking and personal philanthropy, really appealed to me,” says Joan.

The North Shore Giving Circle (NSGC) of Chicago Foundation for Women brings together women from suburban Cook and Lake counties to pool their resources, amplify their giving and reinvest in their communities. A lifelong resident of the North Shore, Joan says she was drawn to the hyperlocal focus and hands on approach of the giving circle.

“As a member, you’re directly helping women and girls in your own communities,” Joan continues. “You’re impacting your neighbors.”

“As a NSGC member for the past four years, I have seen how the power of our collective gifts can change lives.”

This year, the North Shore Giving Circle invested $62,000 in six organizations, including domestic violence shelters and legal services, transitional housing and services for women dealing with homelessness, and support for LGBTQ youth in schools. For Joan, the opportunity to go on site visits, to meet with grantees and see their work firsthand, is what sets the giving circle apart. “I am continually inspired by the dedication and hard work of our grantees.”

“I have seen how the power of our collective gifts can change lives.” #TakeActionwithCFW Share on X

Joan was particularly drawn to Open Studios, which provides a creative and therapeutic outlet for young women through art. Open Studios partners with Curt’s Cafe, a nonprofit restaurant which helps women achieve full employment through job training and placement. Many of these women have experienced trauma and instability, and Open Studios gives them the space and tools to process and express their feelings. Kari Butler, Social Worker for Curt’s Cafe South says, “Our young women long for time to just be quiet and be with themselves. Their lives are chaotic. They always ask ‘When is artmaking?'”

“What is really amazing to me and many of our members is seeing what kind of need there is for women and girls in areas that are thought of as being pretty affluent,” Joan says. “There’s a lot of need and a lot of issues to be dealt with.”

A giving circle grant is an investment in women and girls on the North Shore, but also in the stability and growth of the nonprofits that support them. Through their relationship with the giving circle, grantees become a part of the CFW community, “which affords them all sorts of opportunities for networking and education and assistance that CFW has available to all grantees,” says Joan.

Through the giving circle, Joan has built a community of women who share her commitment to issues of justice and fairness for women and girls. Many of the members participated in the Women’s March on Chicago, with some even traveling to Washington, D.C. And they remain active and engaged in the issues impacting them, their communities and their grantees.

“We’re always learning — we keep up-to-date on current issues by hearing from local leaders and experts,” says Joan. “We know that the combination of our individual gifts and voices is very powerful.”

Learn more about the North Shore Giving Circle, and all of the Giving Councils and Circles at CFW here.