Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms’ Local Nonprofit Spotlight Series! There’s so much good happening in our communities and that’s why we’d like to highlight a local and mighty Chicago chapter of Pitch Your Peers! Founded in 2016 in Greenwich Connecticut by Nina Lindia, Pitch Your Peers is a grant giving organization funded entirely by members. To date Pitch Your Peers has awarded over $275,000 in grants to local nonprofits and they are just getting started. Learn more about the Chicago chapter co-founders, Jennie and Shawna, and how Pitch Your Peers Chicago has made an impact on our local communities.
Hi ladies! Please introduce yourselves.
Jennie Pastor: I grew up in the UK but met my American husband in London in 2004, we moved from London to Greenwich Connecticut in 2011 and then relocated to Winnetka Illinois in 2018. We have 3 children aged 12, 9 and 7 and 2 dogs!
Shawna Radzik: I grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago and landed in Winnetka with my husband in 2012. We have a blended family with 5 kids, ages 25, 23, 21, 11 and 9. We also have a Bernedoodle dog, age 1 ½.
Together we co-founded Pitch Your Peers Chicago in 2019 and is the 3rd chapter of this non-profit originally formed in Greenwich CT in 2016. In 2017 ‘Pitch Your Peers Seattle’ was formed, making ‘Pitch Your Peers Chicago’ the third official chapter. Since 2016 Pitch Your Peers chapters have awarded over $275,000 in grants to local community initiatives in Connecticut and Washington.
What is Pitch Your Peers’ mission?
Pitch Your Peers‘ mission is to engage women in philanthropy and to collectively fund grants to charitable initiatives that serve this region. The goal is to identify unmet needs in the community and provide grants to nonprofits for impactful change in Cook County. We are committed to promoting volunteerism by exposing our Membership to many local, worthwhile charities. We help our Members become more educated and informed about philanthropic choices and meet like-minded women who share their interests.
How does this work? How do you collect funds, which you will later award to local nonprofits?
We collect annual dues in the amount of $1000/member, pool the dollars and give at least one grant annually. Membership is by invitation only.
What is the difference between Pitch Your Peers and other grant funding organizations?
The major difference between Pitch Your Peers and other grant funding organizations is that we get the chance to pitch one another to steer the money to our own passion projects. It’s like Shark Tank…for charity. Pitch Your Peers gives back to the community while simultaneously enriching its own membership’s skill set. We are all women who either still work or used to work in high-pressure environments where giving a great pitch was everything. Pitch Your Peers allows us to put those skills to work for great, local causes. By pitching, our members get the word out about their passion project with more than a soundbite, to a captive, discerning audience.
What was the inspiration behind opening up the Chicago chapter of Pitch Your Peers?
Jennie Pastor: I was asked to join the first chapter (formed in Greenwich Connecticut in 2016) by the president and creator of Pitch Your Peers, Nina Lindia, shortly before relocating to Illinois. As I was moving away joining didn’t make sense, but I was so inspired by the concept that Nina created that I committed to her that I would make it my goal to create a chapter in my new hometown as soon as I knew enough people! Shawna was one of the first people I met in Winnetka (she was on the new families committee of the PTO at my children’s elementary school!). We quickly became friends and it was clear that Shawna was someone heavily committed to philanthropy and so in June 2019 I approached her with the concept and asked her if she would be interested in setting up a north shore chapter with me and she immediately said yes!
I love that Pitch Your Peers Chicago has allowed us to create an inspiring ‘giving’ group of highly accomplished women from many different backgrounds who can educate each other about local non-profits while lifting each other up.
Shawna Radzik: As Jennie mentioned, I’ve always had a passion for philanthropy so when she approached me with the Pitch Your Peers concept, I was quick to say yes. Everything about Pitch Your Peers brings a feeling of positivity and empowerment to our membership and community. I continue to be inspired by the strong, resilient and impactful woman that belong to Pitch Your Peers and the charities they care so deeply about.
How did your background (educational and other) help get you to where you are today?
Jennie Pastor: I studied at The University of Manchester in the UK where I received a BA in Philosophy summa cum laude. I then went on to have a career in IT corporate sales, where I headed up sales for the UK reseller partner division at Dell with annual sales in excess of $50m. In 2007 I had the first of my three children and became a stay-at-home mom. In 2010 I became a part time volunteer for UK charity ‘Sue Ryder’ where I worked on the ‘Sponsor a Village’ campaign, raising funds for communities in Malawi. In 2011 we relocated from London to Greenwich, Connecticut. In 2015, I launched and operated a fine jewelry e-commerce start-up. Wanting to get more involved in my community, in 2017 I successfully ran for local government office for the Greenwich ‘RTM’, the legislative body of the town of approximately 61,000 residents. During my tenure, I sat on the Public Works committee and was focused on environmental issues, such as the successful campaign to ban single-use plastic bags in the town dramatically reducing toxic plastic waste and encouraging the use of sustainable reusable bags. In 2018 we relocated to Winnetka, Illinois where I sit on the executive board of the PTO at my children’s elementary school. I also recently joined ‘Moms Demand Action Winnetka’ – an activist group working towards gun sense in America.
Shawna Radzik: I earned my B.S. degree in Exercise Science/Fitness Leadership from Northern Illinois University (NIU) in 1999. Wanting a change of scenery, I moved to Los Angeles where I worked as a trainer and exercise program director in a medically based fitness center serving at risk populations. Two years later I was offered a General Manager position at the fitness center located within the Social Security Administration corporate headquarters in Chicago. I continued to work in the fitness management and health assessment realms until 2003 when I decided to pursue my master’s degree in Education. I graduated summa cum laude from NIU in 2005 and worked as a health and physical education high school teacher until 2009 when I had my first of 2 children and became a stay-at-home mom. I then served on the Executive Board of my children’s preschool in Winnetka as Director of Communications and Registrar before moving on to become PTO President of my children’s elementary school where I oversaw and managed 30+ committees that supported school activities and student learning. I’ve also served as the Events Chair on the Winnetka Public Schools Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds to enable Winnetka Public Schools to go above and beyond what tax dollars support alone. Additionally, as an active member of the Children’s Home & Aid Woman’s Board in Chicago, I help to raise funds to support three Early Childhood Centers located in Chicago and its suburbs that provide family education and childcare to families in need. I recently co-chaired the organization’s 99th annual Woman’s Board Gala and raised over $700,000 to support its life-saving work. Lastly, I am slated as PTO Co-Chair for my son’s middle school for the upcoming school year.
What’s on the horizon for Pitch Your Peers Chicago?
We just completed our first cycle of membership invitation, ‘grant champion’ pitching, voting and grant awards. With the arrival of the global pandemic we had to dramatically change our format from an ‘in-person pitch night’ to virtual pitches and a virtual awards night. Three brave members stepped up and pitched three amazing local non-profits and we were able to award the following grants:
$25,000 grant to ‘The Rice Center’ in Evanston, a children’s residential treatment center that is home to up to 60 local foster youth per year (ages 6 to 15) who suffer from severe emotional, behavioral, or mental health issues resulting from abuse and trauma. The full grant will go towards a Trauma-Informed Occupational Therapy Program.
Names from left to right are: Shawna Radzik (PYP), Maureen Kelley (Children’s Home and Aid), Keith Polan (Children’s Home and Aid), Jennie Pastor (PYP) and Erin Quinn (PYP)
$2,000 grant to ‘Almost Home Kids’ who provide transitional care in a home-like setting to medically fragile children with complicated health needs and training and respite for their families. The grant will go towards their capital project for their Chicago facility.
$1,000 grant to ‘Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association’ who provide high-quality recreational programs and services for children and adults with disabilities. The grant will go the capital project ‘A Place To Belong’ to renovate the Lake Cook Road facility.
In the fall we will begin our 2021 membership invitations.
Who would you like to thank for the formation and success of Pitch Your Peers Chicago?
We would like to thank each and every one of our members for sticking with us despite the dramatic change of format and particularly to our grant champions and the non-profits they pitched for investing so much time and effort into educating our membership on their causes.
To learn more about Pitch Your Peers chapters, nonprofit grant recipients as well as information about starting a chapter near you visit http://pitchyourpeers.org/!
And follow Pitch Your Peers Chicago on Instagram!