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 - Photo: Kendall Karmanian

Ellie Forman

Corporate community relations manager, Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc., Chicago

 

Company giving priorities: Mesirow's strategy combines old-school practices with newer strategies: Employees and clients determine the organizations the firm supports, but as a company, over the past two years, Mesirow also has prioritized education-related efforts. “Education is an issue of importance to communities around the world. Public education is a burden to cities nationwide, so our goal is to leverage our funds to move the needle in that space,” she says.

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Giving in 2013: Declines to disclose

Change from 2012: Declines to disclose

Number of nonprofit recipients in 2013: Declines to disclose

Organizations supported: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago; Brighton Park, through United Way of Metropolitan Chicago's program; BuildOn; Chicago Urban League; The Children's Place Association; Get In Chicago; Gilda's Club; Goodman Theatre; Lynn Sage Foundation; Metropolitan Family Services; Reading in Motion; Tyree Foundation

Philanthropy closest to her heart: Mesirow has partnered with United Way's Live United neighborhood program benefiting programs in Chicago's Brighton Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side. Mesirow funds parent mentoring in three middle schools in the area. Employees also volunteer through homework-assistance programs and campus beautification crews.

Little-known fact: Mesirow employees can allocate part of their paycheck to the Tyree Foundation, which is named for late CEO James Tyree but is separate from the company. It funds youth-focused nonprofits.

Her biggest challenge: “Having to say no. All of the nonprofit efforts have very compelling cases. It's not uncommon for me to be moved to tears multiple times a week. If we can't fund with cash, we look at other ways to add value,” she says. That includes making connections to board members or to other organizations that do similar work. Mesirow also offers employees a “Dollars for Doers” program—for a certain amount of hours donated to a nonprofit, the company will make a donation.

            

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