Moms, Millennials, Money, Values and Impact

If you’ve followed the evolution of Make It Better Media, you know that we started as a small community website for North Shore moms more than nine years ago. Fortunately, we caught powerful rising tides of influence that helped make us what we are today — the internet, women, millennials, money and social impact.

Now we are well-established with a print magazine, vibrant social network, events and awards. Because of our mission, values and quality content, we are trusted by both women and men.

Make It Better grew up to be a small but mighty full-service media company.

Please pause with us and give thanks for those “rising tides of influence.” They not only helped Make It Better grow, but they also suggest that a better future for everyone is possible, and perhaps even likely.


Women control most consumer dollars. Increasingly, they control or share decision-making authority with their partners for family investment and philanthropy decisions too. Given that, on average, women live longer than men, trillions — not just billions — of dollars are or will soon be under female control.

Women meeting

The really good news is that 92 percent of educated, affluent women, like our original target audience and the founders of Make It Better, are likely to change their brand loyalties if they think it will make the world a better place. The more money that is aligned with that statistic, the faster our world changes for the better.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to make monetary choices based on research and values. It’s also easier than ever to connect and share ideas and decisions with others. Social network shares are like rocket fuel for a good cause or a good deal. Increasingly, an ever-expanding group of consumers and investors expect a double bottom line — a good deal that also does good in the world.

Many women enjoy working collaboratively to improve the world — think giving circles and service clubs. Social media exponentially amplifies the power of those collaborations. Women are far more likely than men to share on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

As women control more money and spend or invest it according to their values, all while sharing information online, it creates a tidal wave of social impact for the better.


Julie Chernoff is not only Make It Better’s dining editor, she was one of the original founders of She also is a great example of the talent and community leadership represented by the group that launched our site on May 1, 2007.

Chernoff is a Yale grad who worked on both coasts in theater and the culinary arts before settling in Evanston to raise two great kids with her husband. She rises to leadership positions in every organization she joins. She served on the Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board of Education, ran a catering business and cooking school out of her historic Daniel Burnham-designed home, and has chaired numerous fundraisers.

In short, Chernoff serves her community — your community, too — with love and a phenomenal skill set. She’s the prototypical North Shore Wonder Woman.

Chernoff’s values reflect those of the entire founding group. Those values are embedded in Make It Better’s DNA.

From the beginning, every Make It Better article and activity has reflected an educated common sense, a gratitude for (and affectionate exasperation with) family, a love of community and support and amplification of philanthropic best practices. We offer entertaining and thoughtful solutions — not angst or luxury lifestyle trivia — that connect our audience to the best local and national resources.

Our 2007 launch was so early in the internet era that other media referenced our endeavor as a “weblog” instead of a website or online community. Fast-forward to today though, and Make It Better thrives because people understand and embrace the power of online community.

Make It Better Mission

We’ve honored our mission to be the most-trusted, easiest-to-use community resource that helps make your life and the lives of others better. You’ve responded with passion for our brand and content. (Thank you very much!) In the process, we’ve helped a lot of worthy organizations and businesses, which also makes our hometowns and Chicagoland stronger.


A funny thing happened along our publishing journey. Men joined us too. Turns out they want to know about and connect with what is best for their family and community too. They want to make the world a better place. They also yearn for trustworthy, easy-to-use media.

Charles Tillman. (Photo courtesy of the Cornerstone Foundation. )

Charles Tillman. (Photo courtesy of the Cornerstone Foundation. )

The savviest men and women have created powerful careers because they reflect the Make It Better values addressed by Wharton professor and bestselling author Adam Grant in his book “Give And Take: A Revolutionary Approach To Success.”

Grant’s research proves that the most successful people are givers, not takers or matchers. This proves to be true for entrepreneurial publishers, as well as those climbing a corporate ladder.


Glance at the number of college graduates, postgraduate degree holders, new hires and the members of the U.S. work force under 40, and you’ll see that women are outpacing men in most categories and professions. Note that the majority of TV talking heads in that age group are women, and more commercials than ever are geared towards women — even during the Super Bowl. According to Forbes, 2016 will see more support and growth of entrepreneurial women than ever before.

Also notice that more men than ever are the parents standing outside the kindergarten doors, and they’re grateful for the opportunity. Men and women are doing a better job than ever of sharing parenting and domestic responsibilities and supporting each other in career choices too.

In many cases, women have to fight less for equal rights today (though there is still much room for progress on this front). Oh yeah, and absent a catastrophe or a dramatic remake of Donald Trump’s character, a woman is about to become our next president.

In the digital era, collaboration rather than competition is the fastest way forward. As mentioned above, many women seem to be particularly adept at this too. As women power is on the rise, the potential for women to foster change for the better elevates correspondingly too. Fortunately for Make It Better, the power of women-owned media is also on the rise.


Educated and affluent moms like Julie Chernoff helped raise millennials (the generation born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) with great values. According to PEW research, millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history. Intriguingly, they expect and demand to make the world a better place. Period.

Unlike any prior generation, millennials expect meaning and social impact with their time, talents and money. They choose Toms shoes, Whole Foods and Starbucks because of the values embedded in those brands. They say no in record numbers to the kind of jobs that offer big pay, but poor lifestyles which long attracted most young talent before this generation.

Social impact investing is another example of this generation’s effect on our country and economy. Millennials with money to invest choose investments with a double bottom line. The companies they invest in have to create social impact as well as deliver profits.

A recent survey by U.S. Trust showed an astonishingly high 93 percent of millennials with assets in excess of $3 million said that a company’s social and environmental impact was key to their investing decision.

Millennials likely drive the growth of B Corporations too. These are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

Needless to say, millennials also are internet natives. They grew up googling their choices online. Their sensibilities, choices and clicks will continue to fuel the growth of the internet and business in general, creating greater positive impact.


It should surprise no one that affluent Americans have turned away from the traditional media’s relentless barrage of bad news and biased reporting.

This opens a wide door for media people trust that provides information and solutions that help. In recent years, as national broadcast news numbers plummeted, TED Talk views soared. This helps explain the growth of Make It Better too.

That’s not to say we’re “Pollyanna.” We know inequities exist. The escalating violence between the police and blacks, and the sometimes stupefying presidential election dynamics are two examples. As Scott Turow said in our interview a few years ago when discussing the difference between the ‘60s and now:

“There are still massive differences between rich and poor, a lot of it focused on race. But we’ve come such a long way.”

Scott Turow

Scott Turow

“There are millions and millions of people in this country whose lives are not only better [now than they would have been in the ’60s], they can now achieve their full potential. This also is true for women and for gays who don’t have to hide who they are any more … We’re not done. But please, let’s do stop and smell the roses here.”

Fortunately, there are examples of individuals who care, and there are resources to help that are growing. Most people really do want to help, especially if you make it easy for them to do so. This is Make It Better’s specialty — making it easy to help yourself and others, while growing a trusted and powerful network of good people, good organizations and good communities.

We’re grateful for these trends. They helped grow Make It Better Media. More importantly though, they will also grow a much better world for all.

Make It Better Philosophy


Top 11 Chicago Female Philanthropists

If you missed my recent Make It Better article on these Top 11 Chicago Female Philanthropists, I wanted to highlight this list of amazing women I mentioned in April, 2014 when Mayor Emanuel created this tribute.

In honor of Women’s Philanthropy Week and the#WomenLeading Philanthropy Symposium in Chicago, Make It Better announces our Top 11 Chicago Female Philanthropists.

This list, which is ordered alphabetically, is made up of women we admire who are doing wonderful things in—and for—our community.


1. Frances Comer—Founder, The Comer Foundation

The widow of Lands’ End founder Gary Comer continues in the philanthropic traditions she started with her husband, focusing primarily on children’s health and education. More than $50 million has been invested in Gary’s childhood community on Chicago’s South Side, including the creation of the internationally recognized Gary Comer Youth Center, a top performing college prep school, and an affordable housing initiative. Additionally, major investments have been made to theUniversity of Chicago, most especially $42 million for the Comer Children’s Hospital and Pediatric Emergency Department.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Rosemary-Connelly2. Sister Rosemary Connelley—Executive Director, Misericordia

Connelley has been a champion of better care for children and adults with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities since she began working at a small South Side facility in 1969. She has grownMisericordia into a vibrant, loving community for 600 residents in the Rogers Park facility (for which she lobbied hard) with an annual budget of more than $50 million. Along the way Connelley has also earned seven honorary degrees, numerous other awards, and a beloved and much-respected reputation as a leading champion in the developmental disabilities arena.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Paula-Fasseas-new3. Paula Fasseas—Founder, PAWS and Peter & Paula Fasseas Foundation 

Fasseas founded the animal shelter PAWS Chicago in 1997 as a volunteer movement to help stray dogs find homes. Her passion for the cause grew the nonprofit into a “no kill” model with a state-of-the-art facility admired and adopted within the national PAWS organization, which rescues a variety of animals. Impressively, the Fasseas Foundation’s reach is extensive and goes beyond PAWS. In 2011 alone, the Fasseas Foundation donated $1,318,350 to promote volunteerism, philanthropy and grant-making foundations. (Photo by Sofia Spentzas.)


MAD-female-philanthropists-Francia-Harrington4. Francia Harrington—Senior Vice President Corporate Social Responsibility, JPMorgan Chase

Harrington manages the extensive civic relationships and philanthropic efforts of JPMorgan Chase. She also sits on the boards of LISC Chicago, ChiArts High School (which she also helped found), Ingenuity Incorporated and Chicago Lights. Harrington has been a longtime champion of the power of female philanthropists; JPMorgan Chase is the premier sponsor of this week’s #WomenLeading Philanthropy Conference, which will draw national attention to Chicago’s prominence in this area.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Joan-Harris-new5. Joan Harris—Former Chairman, Irving Harris Foundation

Known as the Patron Saint of Arts in Chicago, and also considered a national arts powerhouse, Harris and her late husband, Irving, championed development of the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, which created a home and new opportunities for scores of arts organizations. She has served on the National Endowment for the Arts,Arts Alliance Illinois, and as the Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as on the boards of the CSO, Juilliard Schooland Aspen Music Festival and School. The Foundation also supports programs, policies research and organizations for early childhood initiatives and the Jewish community.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Mellody-Hobson6. Mellody Hobson—President, Ariel Investments

Hobson, youngest of a single mother’s six children and the only one to graduate from college, has long championed education and equal opportunities for all in Chicago. Her marriage to filmmaker George Lucas helped shoot her into the civic philanthropic stratosphere. She and Lucas gave recent donations of $25 million to both After School Matters and the University of Chicago Laboratory School. Hobson also serves on the boards of the Chicago Public Library, Field Museum, theChicago Public Education Fund and the Sundance Institute. (Photo by Joi Ito.)


MAD-female-philanthropists-Liz-Lefkofsky-new7. Liz Lefkofsky—Founder, Lefkofsky Family Foundation

Lefkofsky is a rising star in Chicago’s philanthropic community. She and her husband, Eric, who founded Groupon, have given away $25 million to Chicago-area nonprofits working in education, medical research, fundamental human rights, and arts and culture. She’s also creating opportunities for female tech entrepreneurs with the foundation’s recent support of 1871 FEMtech. Her philanthropic drive predates Groupon’s success. As a child, Lefkofsky helped her mother stuff envelopes in support of the American Brain Tumor Association, which her mother founded, and later served as a director of the Printer’s Row Book Fair and Gallery 37 arts community. Thanks to her recent signing of Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge with her husband, this commitment will only grow; they have pledged to donate half of their net wealth to charitable causes.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Ann-Lurie8. Ann Lurie—President and Treasurer, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Foundation; Founder, Africa Infectious Disease Village Clinics, Inc.

Lurie, a self-proclaimed hippie in her early years, also worked in public health and pediatric nursing before starting a family and never lost her passion for this work. Now, through the Foundation and her personal giving, Lurie engages in direct and transformational philanthropy and research grant funding in education, social services, arts and health care organizations around the world. Now perhaps best known for her $100 million gift to the Lurie Children’s Hospital and deep commitment to transforming health care in Africa, Lurie also has funded a long, diverse list of other programs through other institutions, including Northwestern and University of Michigan. Better yet, Lurie doesn’t just give money; when she takes a project to heart, she gives substantial time, too.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Diana-Mendly-Rauner9. Dr. Diana Mendley Rauner—President, Ounce of Prevention Fund; Founder, Rauner Family Foundation

She’s currently best known as the wife of the Republican gubernatorial candidate, but Rauner has long been a determined advocate for children and a thoughtful force behind her family’s prodigious philanthropic gifts. This includes launching the state-of-the-art Rauner Center for theAmerican Red Cross of Greater Chicago, founding six charter schools and supporting numerous other education and scholarship programs. She also serves on the board of Lurie Children’s Hospital. She’s most passionate, though, about the importance of early childhood education, leading her to take on a full-time commitment to theOunce of Prevention Fund, which is a national leader in the area.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Shirley-Ryan10. Shirley Welsh Ryan—President and Treasurer, Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation

To understand the rocket-fuel power of strategic ideas amplified by philanthropic dollars, spend a little time listening to Ryan discuss the visions behind her family’s philanthropy, like the Ryan Opera Center of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Ryan Education Center of the Art Institute of Chicago, Pathways Center for Children, and manyNorthwestern University (her alma mater) programs. Ryan thinks deeply about a nonprofit’s mission and creates and/or funds programs with remarkable vision, while quietly deflecting attention from her valuable efforts.


MAD-female-philanthropists-Bernarda-Wong11. Bernarda Wong—Founder/President, Chinese American Service League

In 1979, with the belief that she could make the transition to a new life, language and cultural expectations better for Asians moving to the United States, Wong founded CASL in Chicago on a mere $30,000 budget. She based this on her own experience moving here from Hong Kong as an 18-year-old. Wong grew the Service League into a significant institution with a $12 million annual budget, and was recently recognized by President Barack Obama. She was the first Asian to serve on the boards of theChicago Public Library and the United Way of Chicago. Her public service also includes several city and state government advisory councils, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations(CCHR), the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) Board, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) Board, and Illinois Council on Aging.

Make It Better’s Smart Women, Smart Finances

Women and financesThe stats are alarming and can’t be ignored;
90% of all educated, affluent women will be required to handle their own finances at some point in their adult life, for good reasons and bad – like success at work, death or divorce.

100% of us should be doing this anyway, because understanding and planning carefully for our financial future is the smart thing to do.

So Make It Better is making it easier for our audience to do this, with our “Smart Women, Smart Finances” Seminar at the Chicago Botanic Garden on Wednesday, September 10 at 8:30am.

This program is NOT your average financial seminar. Rather, it is custom designed to provide engaging, empowering, and useful information in the company of others with similar concerns and opportunities in life.Smart Women, Smart Finances was developed out of my partner, Mindy Fauntleroy’s frustrations in trying to get a grip on her personal finances. She felt that every financial service provider talked in a language that didn’t relate to her as a woman. So she collaborated with her favorite resources and came up with a program that speaks to all of the issues that she faces and believes that other women face too.
Please sign up and come learn with us. You can purchase tickets here.
We are trying to make it better for you! See below for details.
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