FOR MEMBERS ONLY!
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 |
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.”
THE MOVERS AND THE SHAKERS
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
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.”
Without a doubt, Chicago’s exclusive business club scene is replete with opportunities for all professionals. Below are just six worth exploring.
of 200 (C200.org)
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
Membership is by invitation only. Annual
Club of Chicago (Executivesclub.org)
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.
Organization, Chicago (EOChicago.org)
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
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).
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
Club of Chicago (Commercialclubchicago.org)
“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
“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 (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,
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
Membership is by invitation only and an
existing member must sponsor new members.
Annual dues: $600.
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.
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.”