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Karin Prangley Charts Her Own Path Through Philanthropy

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In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), the Trust is featuring a series of conversations with Latinx philanthropists and leaders who are making a difference in the region. This article is the second in our series. Check back weekly for a new feature.

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As a senior vice president and wealth planner at Brown Brothers Harriman, Karin Prangley helps to guide others on their philanthropic journeys. Her professional experience and desire to give back to the Latinx community led her to The Chicago Community Trust’s Nuestro Futuro—an initiative supporting organizations and programs improving the quality of life of Latinos in metropolitan Chicago.

Prangley recently sat down with Meghan Lewit, communications manager at the Trust, to discuss the lessons she learned from her parents’ immigrant experience, and how she shaped her own approach to philanthropy.

Meghan Lewit: Tell me a little bit about your personal philanthropic journey.

Karin Prangley: It really starts from my early childhood, seeing my parents and grandparents in action. Both of my parents are immigrants—my father immigrated from Colombia in his teens and my mom’s family is from Italy. My parents and grandparents couldn’t give much financially, but they were always helping others. When you come to this country, your world is your family, your community and your church, and it was ever-present in my life that you give what you can to support these three areas.

Growing up I translated their stories into my own story as a first-generation American. There came a point as a working professional with three children when I realized I had less time, but more financial resources to give. And I was ok with making that shift because it was the most effective way for me to have an impact. I’m a fruit punch not only of my Italian and Colombian heritage, but also of the opportunities and experiences I’ve had growing up in America. It’s the privilege of the first generation to be able to give more financially to the community.

Meghan Lewit: What brought you to Nuestro Futuro at The Chicago Community Trust, and why was the focus on community engagement important to you?

Karin Prangley: I was aware of the affinity funds at the Trust because I’ve recommended the Young Leaders Fund to my clients as an avenue for the next generation to engage in philanthropy. And then I had a conversation with [Senior Director of Philanthropic Services] Kristin Carlson Vogen at the Trust about joining Nuestro Futuro and it was one of the best moments of my philanthropic journey—learning that I could be a part of helping Latinos in Chicago thrive. I have met the most amazing, interesting people who ask great questions and have taught me to ask great questions in grantmaking. That’s benefited me, my family, my clients and the non-profit organizations that I’m involved with. It’s had this amazing ripple effect.

Meghan Lewit: How does your professional role as a wealth planner and philanthropic advisor influence your own approach to giving, and vice versa?

Karin Prangley: I’m lucky that I’m able to stand on the shoulders of my clients and, in some cases, join my dollars with theirs to enhance their efforts. Hearing their stories and seeing how they get from A to Z I feel like I’m getting to see someone create the philanthropic equivalent of a Google or Amazon—something so successful that started as an idea that needed to be cultivated. It’s helped me to cultivate my own ideas and be really focused in how I direct my dollars to transform lives.

Meghan Lewit: You discussed the influence of your parents and family growing up. Does anyone else in your life play a role in supporting or inspiring your charitable giving?

Karin Prangley: My children. They are budding philanthropists and helping them on their philanthropic journeys inspires me to continue in mine. They know what we do and why, and they understand that it’s more important to give to others than to have more things. It’s amazing that they are just two generations removed from immigrating to this country with nothing, knowing nobody. I can’t wait to see what they do.

Meghan Lewit: Can you talk to me a little bit about the importance of Latinx voices in philanthropy?

Karin Prangley: It’s so important right now because there is so much anti-immigrant sentiment, and so much racial injustice. That applies to both Latinos and Afro-Latinos. We have to stand up for our Afro-Latino brothers and sisters and amplify everyone’s voice. I see that happening. I see that happening in Nuestro Futuro and we are being invited to be a voice and collaborate in larger regional efforts to address injustice.

Meghan Lewit: What contribution or philanthropic achievement are you most proud of?

Karin Prangley: I would say there are two things I’m most proud of. One is being a part of Nuestro Futuro and how as a group we were able to step up, especially in the midst of COVID-19, and support Latino communities in Chicago.

The other is that my husband and I have been fundraising and volunteering with Almost Home Kids, an affiliate of Lurie Children’s Hospital, for about ten years. It provides respite care and a home-like medical facility for kids with medical complications. We’ve spent hundreds of hours working to get them what they need. My husband is the chair of the board, and I feel like we’ve really made an impact there. It comes from a place of gratitude that I have three healthy children, but for a mom that gives birth and finds out that life isn’t as she hoped it would be, I’m really proud that I can help even a small bit.

Meghan Lewit: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their philanthropic journey?

Karin Prangley:  Number one, never be ashamed of what you can’t do. And if you’re in a position of needing to accept help, never be ashamed of that because there will be a time when you’re able to give. There’s an abundance of welcoming and collaboration here in Chicago and an organization, the Trust, that helps connect the dots. If you can give with your time, talent or treasure do what you can, and know that this is a step in a larger journey.