insight magazine


A peek inside some of Chicago’s most exclusive business clubs reveals a few good reasons why they’re the place to be for rising accounting and finance pros. By Bridget McCrea | Summer 2017


As regional managing partner of the Great Lakes Region of RSM US LLP, Donna Sciarappa, CPA has more than 25 years of assurance and business advisory experience. She recently completed a four-year term on RSM US LLP’s board of directors; she’s also a member of Leadership Cleveland’s class of 2010, a past recipient of YWCA Greater Cleveland’s Women of Achievement Award, and was named to Crain’s Cleveland Business’ “40 Under 40” list.

In other words, Sciarappa doesn’t really need any more credentials or credits to her name, but when The Committee of 200 (C200), an invitation-only professional organization for the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders—and one of the more exclusive membership organizations headquartered in Chicago—came onto her radar two years ago, this CPA simply couldn’t ignore the opportunity.

After all, Sciarappa had recently taken on the role of regional managing partner at her firm and found herself spending more and more time in Chicago.

“I really didn’t have a network in Chicago, so I was looking forward to an opportunity to get to know other women professionals in the community,” Sciarappa recalls. Working with C200’s membership coordinator, Sciarappa completed the process of joining and soon found herself immersed in an invaluable network of women and resources.

Sciarappa says C200 has since exposed her to several “extremely well done” group events where she’s tapped the minds of many successful, entrepreneurial women. “That creates a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” Sciarappa says, adding that she often shares the insights and knowledge she’s gleaned from those interactions with her Chicago colleagues and coworkers.

“It’s been very positive for our ability to connect with people within the community,” Sciarappa says, noting that she’s looking forward to forging deeper bonds with fellow members under a new council.

C200 is in the process of setting up a new, more intimate council in Chicago, of which Sciarappa will be a member. “It will be a smaller group, so we’ll all have the opportunity to spend more time with one another, really getting to know the group on a more informal basis,” she says. “That's just one of the things I’m looking forward to as a member.”


Sciarappa’s story is just one example of what can come from being part of Chicago’s exclusive executive membership club scene, which dates back nearly 150 years to when The Chicago Club and The Standard Club—both founded in 1869—paved the way for exclusive clubs and organizations.

Today, Chicago is home to many elite business clubs and organizations that provide benefits like important networking opportunities, access to industry events and experts, connections with potential clients, and—in most cases—the opportunity to enjoy some great food and wine, making Chicago a virtual hotbed for “joiners” who want to explore new horizons with like-minded professionals.

Zachary Weiner, CEO at Chicago PR firm Emerging Insider, says social clubs have become key for professionals who want to expand their networking opportunities and entrench themselves in the social scene. “As more and more consultants preach ‘digital,’ an investment towards face-to-face marketing is a factor of differentiation for savvy CPAs,” Weiner says. “Social clubs offer this differentiating capability.”

For example, Weiner says clubs will often help qualified and credible CPAs reach out to their communities in a “non-promotional” manner, in person and outside of the digital noise. “This persona-based marketing and exposure carries far more weight than a Facebook ad, email, cold call, or webinar ever could,” he says.

It’s not just CPAs that benefit from being part of business and executive clubs, either. Trave Harmon, CEO of managed IT services provider Triton Technologies in Worcester, Mass., certainly isn’t a CPA, but he can attest to the value of joining multiple professional organizations and prestigious social groups.

“When I started my business, I got involved with various clubs, chambers, and events that helped me make proper introductions to the ‘movers and shakers’ in the area,” Harmon says, who’s since met some of his largest clients through these groups. “I’ve even met CPAs, attorneys, doctors, and business professionals who to this day are still helping me grow my business.”

Getting In

Without a doubt, Chicago’s exclusive business club scene is replete with opportunities for all professionals. Below are just six worth exploring.

The Committee of 200 (

In 1982, a handful of the most powerful women in business gathered in Los Angeles to raise $200,000 for The National Association for Women Business Owners, a network dedicated to women entrepreneurs. Once the group raised the funds, the members recognized the collective strength of the informal community they had created. Ultimately, the founders, including Katharine Graham and Christie Hefner, conceived a broader agenda that became what’s now The Committee of 200 (C200), with a membership that has far surpassed the original goal.

From its first days, C200 has served as a vital network and community for women with common business leadership experiences and like-minded goals to come together to share their successes and to support each other. C200’s primary mission is to foster, celebrate, and advance women’s leadership in business through unique programming and professional and personal networking. C200 leaders seek to promote success shared among the membership and with future generations of female leaders, and its members represent an innovative, supportive community of women. Its unique mix of corporate leaders and entrepreneurs form an exclusive network.

Membership is by invitation only. Annual dues: $1,800.

The Executives’ Club of Chicago (

Since 1911, The Executives’ Club of Chicago has helped shape Chicago business and economic growth as one of the country’s premier executive membership development and networking organizations.

From its founding, the organization has served as a platform for senior-level executives; up-and-coming young leaders; professionals and entrepreneurs of large and small, local, national, and multinational corporations; leaders of universities; state and city government officials; and foreign dignitaries to build relationships, share ideas, develop new business opportunities, and participate in world-class programming.

Each year, The Executives’ Club presents programs on current business and economic trends that hosts some of the most influential global and local business trailblazers of the time—think Amelia Earhart, Bill Gates, Christine Lagarde, Jamie Dimon, and Michelle Obama.

Membership is by invitation only, and new members must be nominated by a current member. Annual dues: Undisclosed.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Chicago (

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is a global business network of more than 12,000 entrepreneurs spread around the globe. Founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs, EO aims to inspire business owners to engage in its expanding peer-to-peer networked and to learn from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.

The organization provides resources in the form of global events, leadership-development programs, an online entrepreneur forum, and executive education opportunities, among other offerings designed for personal and professional growth. What’s important about this global organization is that it also has local chapters furthering its mission.

EO Chicago, named one of Chicago’s most exclusive entrepreneurial clubs by Crain’s Chicago Business, has more than 136 local members and puts on its own regional events designed to help members build their businesses and gain inspiration from other local entrepreneurs.

Prospective members must meet rigorous qualifications to apply. Annual dues: EO Global $1,900; EO Chicago $2,033 (excluding application and initiation fees).

The Chicago Network (

A letter went out in the summer of 1979 “calling together women distinguished by their achievements in business, the arts, the professions, government, and academia.” Of the 113 recipients, 97 exceptional Chicago women accepted the invitation to meet for the first time. And so, The Chicago Network (TCN) was formed.

Today, TCN has more than 450 members from Chicago’s business, professional, cultural, nonprofit, and educational communities set on a mission to connect for professional and personal growth; advance civic, business, and philanthropic communities; and inspire and support the next generation of leaders. TCN has various initiatives aimed at leveling the playing field for women in business, including expanding their presence in boardrooms and executive suites.

Membership is by invitation only. Annual dues: Undisclosed.

The Commercial Club of Chicago (

“From Wacker Drive to Grant Park to the Museum of Science and Industry, The Commercial Club of Chicago and its affiliate organizations have played a role in shaping Chicago.” That’s a nice introduction to this organization that was founded in 1877. Membership, however, is limited to only 350 active members, and total membership is approximately 500, including active, life, and non-resident members, making The Commercial Club of Chicago quite exclusive. That’s before you consider that to even be considered for membership, you must be nominated in writing by a Commercial Club member and seconded by at least six other members.

But gaining entry is certainly worth it. The Commercial Club of Chicago brings together leading men and women of Chicago’s metropolitan area business, professional, cultural, philanthropic, and educational communities.

“If an issue is critical to Chicago, it’s important to us,” the organization states on its website. “That includes economic, development, and social issues.” The group holds luncheons nine months out of the year which draw in leaders from business, government, and the civic arenas—both locally and nationally—to discuss key “news of the day.”

Election to membership is highly limited. Annual dues: Undisclosed.

Chicago Finance Exchange (

Chicago Finance Exchange (CFE) was founded in 1980 as the premier network for accomplished women leaders in finance in Chicago’s public, private, and non-profit business communities. This includes the likes of CFOs, CPAs, commercial and investment bankers, treasurers, venture capitalists, and more. Launched with 25 members, CFE has over 230 members today and provides members with an assortment of professional and networking events aimed at bettering its community—and the business world— through the exchanging of ideas, experiences, and expertise.

According to CFE’s website, its key organizational goals include actively exploring and sharing ideas and expertise important to today's financial decision makers; creating a professional and personal community resource within the engaged member base; and contributing ideas, expertise, and talent to the Chicago and global business communities.

Membership is by invitation only and an existing member must sponsor new members. Annual dues: $600.

Giving Back

Regardless of which group you join, or which events you decide to participate in, Sciarappa says professionals who put the time and energy into the organization will definitely get more than their fair share out of it. “Every time you meet with someone and give back a bit of your time and energy, the relationships that form are incredible,” Sciarappa says.

“I belong to a few different groups, but I’m pretty selective, and I make sure that I can spend the time and energy to develop those relationships. I would encourage others to do the same,” Sciarappa adds.

In particular, she says CPAs should seek out the business groups that will help them keep their fingers on the pulse of the local and global business communities. “As CPAs, when we advise our clients, it’s really important that we get a sense for what’s going on in the business world,” she says. “This is a great way to accumulate that knowledge while forming relationships and giving back to the community at the same time.”

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