Women United Giving Council

Take Action for Women of Color

“There was something about Chicago that felt like home.”

Karla Muldowney’s grandmother looked at many places before deciding on Chicago. She began sending her nine children from Mexico to Chicago one at a time, until she was able to join them.

As an activist, philanthropist and member of the Women United Giving Council (WUGC) of Chicago Foundation for Women, Karla is driven by her family’s immigration story and her own experience as a first generation American.

“I hold many different identities that people don’t see,” she says. “The members of the Women United Giving Council bring their background and bring their full selves to the table. Without bringing that to my work, it wouldn’t feel whole.”

The Women United Giving Council is a giving council made up of women of color, and invests in communities and programs supporting women and girls from diverse backgrounds, diverse cultures, and diverse ethnicities.

The Women United Giving Council and its members play an important role in diversifying and democratizing philanthropy. “Philanthropy often doesn’t think about or highlight the experiences of women and girls who have been underrepresented,” like women and girls of color, says Karla. “Ensuring that intersectionality is a part of the conversation is really critical,” to the giving council’s approach to grantmaking.

CFW is home to three affinity-based giving councils: the Women United Giving Council, the Young Women’s Giving Council and the LBTQ Giving Council, which invests in the LGBTQ community in Chicago. In total in 2017, the three councils collectively invested over $43,000 in women and girls.

In 2017, Giving Councils at CFW invested > $43k in women + girls. #TakeActionwithCFW. Share on X

The councils help members leverage their dollars and increase their investments in women and girls by contributing to a collective fund. Members participate in cooperative grantmaking, identifying organizations and programs, reviewing proposals, conducting site visits, and voting on grant recommendations. By involving community members in the grantmaking process, the councils also connect CFW with grassroots and emerging organizations, which can benefit from CFW’s capacity building programs and grantee network.

In 2017, the Women United Giving Council funded Polished Pebbles, which has connected over 1,000 girls of color with mentoring to succeed in school, develop healthy relationships, and explore career opportunities.

For Karla, the council helped her expand her idea of what philanthropy looks like and realize her power as a donor.

“Giving money just seemed like it was never going to be attainable. That’s what people with money do,” says Karla of her perspective on philanthropy growing up. “That’s kind of elitist in a way. I can give a little here and there.” By pooling her resources with other council members, Karla is able to make a larger impact through the WUGC than what otherwise would have been possible on her own.

“Being able to see that impact continues to inform and motivate the need for me to be a donor and a philanthropist,” she continues.

Her work with the giving council is intertwined with Karla’s broader activism and community involvement. “I consider all of the giving councils at CFW part of the women’s movement,” she says. “Activism isn’t something we do, it’s just something that’s a part of us. And it’s not something that we can just take off at the end of the day.”

She, along with many other council members, marched in the Women’s March on Chicago on January 21, and carried that spirit back to the giving council.

“Those two things are not separate,” Karla says. It was amazing and inspiring “to see thousands and thousands of women show up [at the march] and then to go back to a meeting with our giving council, and still see the women around the table and the way they show up.”

“I joined the Giving Council because I wanted to be filled with that inspiration.”

The giving councils and community philanthropy feel increasingly critical these days. The Women United Giving Council offers a way take a stand, to increase resources in communities of color, and to transform our region.

“We are all working towards transformative justice. CFW and the WUGC gives me that opportunity and gives me the space to do that. When women get together and put their resources together, that’s when you really see that transformation moving.”

Learn more about the Women United Giving Council, and all of the Giving Councils and Circles at CFW here.