Women’s Fund

The Women’s Fund endowment supports projects that strengthen families and communities by empowering women and girls.

As women grow in influence and financial strength, so does their ability to give back. You can change the lives of women and children in central Illinois by contributing to the Women’s Fund endowment.

Why? Because when women prosper, communities thrive; and when communities thrive, the world becomes a better place for everyone.

Since 1993, the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois has been working to change the lives of women and children in central Illinois. The Women’s Fund endowment strengthens families and communities by providing grants to organizations whose programs help empower women and girls. Surprisingly, less than five percent of charitable contributions go towards funding women’s programs.

Through 2020, the Women’s Fund endowment has awarded 120+ grants adding up to more than $400,000 to benefit programs focusing on women and girls. The Women’s Fund continues to bring women’s issues to the forefront in central Illinois. The original goal for the Women’s Fund was finding 1,000 women to each donate $1,000 to create a million-dollar endowment. This level of giving helps create a legacy that will live on beyond all of us. The Women’s Fund welcomes gifts of any amount to help build the endowment. Once individuals contribute $1,000 or more over time, they are recognized as a Founding Member.

Women’s Fund Founding Members

2021 Women’s Fund Success Grant Recipients


A Million Dollar Goal

The Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois was founded in 1993 from an idea shared by Pat Barton, a CFCI Board Member at the time. Pat worked with Donna Haerr, then executive director, Deb Ritschel and Jay Goldberg to create the Fund as a way to inspire female philanthropy. “Power does come from money, and women do control much of the money in this country,” Haerr told the Journal Star when the establishment of the Women’s Fund was announced.

Our goal for the Women’s Fund is to find 1,000 women who will donate $1,000 over time in order to create a million-dollar endowment. Our Fund is more than half way there! For the first time in the history of the Women’s Fund, our endowment is over $750,000, and we are committed to reaching our million-dollar goal with your help.

This level of giving to the Women’s Fund creates a legacy that will live on beyond all of us. With a million-dollar endowment, the Women’s Fund would be able to provide $40,000 a year to deserving programs.

Today, we are inviting you to a new level of giving – to elevate women and girls to the top of your philanthropic list and to invest in them with even greater commitment.


2021 Women to Women Virtual Leader Luncheon Awards

The Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois would like to congratulate the 2021 Leader Luncheon Award recipients. Thank you for all you do in our community.

Health Care/Wellness Award – Mariola Kabat
Business/Professions Award – Carol Merna
Arts Award – Jennifer Gordon
Education Award – Laura Kowalske
Community Service Award – Kim Cornwell
Emerging Leader Award – Jennifer Strickland
Young Woman’s Service Award – Cassidy Miles-Coleman

The Luncheon was started by the YWCA of Peoria over 40 years ago to recognize local women who best exemplify excellence in their chosen profession and commitment to the success of other women. The Women’s Fund assumed ownership of the Leader Luncheon in 2013 and has remained committed to its growth, success and excellence over the years.

1978-2019 Leader Luncheon Past Award Winners

For information about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Sarah Fletcher at sarah@communityfoundationci.org or call (309) 674-8730.

"As the Women's Fund Advisory Board wraps up our 25th year, we celebrate reaching a milestone of having over $500,000 in our endowment fund. In the coming year we will bring a greater awareness to the support we provide to programs that empower women and girls. We no longer want to be the best kept secret in central Illinois."

Lea Anne Miller, Immediate Past Chair / Succession Planning
The Women's Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois

July 8, 2019

Women’s fund Advisory board

Michelle Nielsen Ott – Chair
Erynn Dykstra – Vice Chair
Lindsey Kerr – Treasurer & Secretary
Lea Anne Miller – Immediate Past Chair / Succession Planning
Betsy Bladel
Ellen Corbin
Holly Edwin
Kala Pierce – Success Grants Committee Chair
Michelle Sanders – Leader Luncheon Committee Co-Chair
Kathy Schaeffer – Leader Luncheon Committee Chair
Anupama Uddavolu
Erin Winstead
Mae Gilliland Wright