As a community foundation, the Trust has long supported efforts to improve the leadership and performance of institutions serving the public interest in both the nonprofit and public sectors.
While all our funding supports the work of the region's nonprofits, this specific grant program helps nonprofits seeking to strengthen and sustain themselves through collaborating or merging with other nonprofits, or developing new enterprises that bring in revenue. If you are looking for other types of grants to help fund your organization's programs, please choose your area of work from the menu at the left.
Click here to explore: Public & nonprofit sector strategy in depth
Grant making in Strengthening the Public and Nonprofit Sector supports Community Goal #3: Promoting civic and cultural vitality.
Funding opportunity #1: Organizational development and collaboration
The Trust is a major supporter of effective organizational development and growth for nonprofits. As government funding becomes increasingly constrained and foundation funding remains level, the most successful nonprofits will be those that are able to raise funds from new and diverse sources. Many organizations rely extensively on government and foundation dollars. Nonprofits need to be encouraged to pursue additional fundraising strategies, which can include targeting individual donors, tapping corporate marketing dollars, starting social enterprises and devising other innovative ways to generate new support.
When additional fundraising is insufficient to meeting operating needs, organizations often need to consider merging or sharing back-office functions such as accounting, information technology, purchasing, insurance or human resources. These strategies can enable agencies to spend more of their revenues on maintaining or expanding service and less on administrative functions.
The Trust also continues to provide funding to technical assistance providers to support training and consultation.
Funding opportunity #2: Setting benchmarks for improvement
Quality performance data is essential for the improvement of virtually any system; historians have argued that data has been a fundamental tool for creation of the modern American economy. The social service field is extremely fragmented in its collection and use of data. Only in the field of education are there publicly available data and metrics across providers. Even with its shortcomings, this data has been essential to create informed discussion about student accountability, program evaluation, school improvement and school reform.
Lack of data on social services means there is little information upon which consumers and funders can rely to make choices about what programs to patronize. At the same time providers lack sufficient information to improve services, because so little is benchmarked and quality performance data is often unavailable.
The challenges of developing data across social services include the variety of goals and programs, lack of agreement on metrics, privacy concerns and resistance from some providers who fear accountability or lack the resources to collect data accurately. The opportunity is that there is a growing interest in more sophisticated and transparent accountability, and strong university institutions interested in assisting in the process. Pressure on government for efficient resource allocation and results could drive the use of data for decision-making.
The Trust seeks to improve service provision by creating data that can be used by practitioners and leaders to benchmark and improve programs, by consumers to identify the best services, and by funders to identify the best providers to fund. The ideal would be that for in each field identified below there be common metrics, a single point of data collection, and ongoing evaluation studies and monitoring reports that are available to the public.
- By 2015, data is available publicly on performance of a) workforce b) homelessness c) youth and d) domestic violence.
- A measure of hunger or need for basic food has been created and utilized.
- Evidence through individual agency improvements or client caseload shows that performance data is having an effect on agency utilization or performance.
The Trust will directly solicit proposals that advance standardized data collection across provider organizations, benchmarking of performance standards and transparency of provider performance.
Funding opportunity #3: Building public sector capacity
With the financial crisis has come increased pressure for local and state government to perform with fewer financial resources. This has resulted in reductions in staffing, interest in systems redesign and greater reliance on electronic systems. These changes have created the need for innovative approaches to public sector management and an increased need for problem-solving involving the collaboration of government, providers and philanthropy.
The Trust seeks to increase the capacity of public institutions to meet the needs of their constituents more effectively, as demonstrated by evidence that changes in governmental organization or staffing lead to:
- Improved outcomes of services.
- Preservation of services that could have been lost.
- New populations being served.
- Same amount of services being provided at less cost or more effectively
The Trust will respond to opportunities presented either by the public agency or by a nonprofit organization to assist state and local governments to improve efficiency of service provision. There will be no RFP process. Types of projects include:
- Improve efficiency and accountability of public services.
- Helping government implement consent decrees designed to improve outcomes for service recipients, such as placing people with disabilities from institutions to community settings.
- Supporting the work of the state Human Services Commission or other planning bodies.
- Helping state government implement systemic improvements in areas such as contracting, payment or program evaluation.
- Assistance with local government collaboration around service provision.
Please direct all inquiries to Jim Lewis, Senior Program Officer at email@example.com
Funding opportunity #4: Developing leadership
Over two decades, the Trust has played an instrumental role in developing local leaders. The Trust founded Leadership Greater Chicago
, which continues to serve as the major vehicle through which promising young leaders from the public and private sectors are recruited, trained and positioned to serve in leadership position of many local institutions. Graduates include Education Secretary Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama. The Trust has also supported a number of leadership development efforts, including our own Fellowship program
. Grants have also been made to support leadership development among minority populations.
The Trust will continue its Fellowship program to provide leadership training programs or professional development opportunities for emerging and experienced leaders. Other leadership development programs, such as Leadership Greater Chicago, will also be considered for funding.
Grant making in strengthening the public and nonprofit sector
The Trust's grant funding is awarded through an RFP process to organizations developing mergers, collaborations or new sources of revenue. Grants are also made at the Trust's discretion to establish benchmarks for improvement in the social services sector; to increase the capacity of public institutions; and to projects that develop strong leadership for the public and nonprofit sectors—these programs will not use an RFP process.
In 2013, The Chicago Community Trust awarded grants in this priority totaling $2,792,700.
RFP: Promoting Organizational Development and Collaboration
As government funding becomes increasingly constrained and foundation funding remains level, the most successful nonprofits will be those that are able to raise funds from new and diverse sources: targeting individual donors, tapping corporate marketing dollars, starting social enterprises and devising other innovative ways to generate new support. When additional fundraising is insufficient, organizations often need to consider merging or sharing back-office functions such as accounting, information technology, purchasing, insurance or human resources.
- More effective nonprofit organizations
- Mergers and consolidation of organizations that demonstrate that consolidation preserves service provision to a community or neighborhood
- Evidence that consolidations and collaborations supported by the Trust produced net positive value far exceeding the Trust grant
- More nonprofits document ability to generate alternative sources of income
Mergers and Collaborations: The Trust will accept proposals by RFP or at the request of providers interested in merging multiple provider organizations, or developing collaborations that result in significant cost savings that can be converted to program service provision. Successful applicants will need to show:
- Proposed merger, collaborative or shared services will save significant amounts of money above the foundation’s investment.
- The proposed project will result in maintenance or improvement in service quality.
- The project will produce results within a reasonable time period.
The Trust will also consider funding requests from providers seeking to develop new sources of revenue. Projects might include strategies to reach new donors other than government or foundations, social enterprises, earned revenue and/or other strategies. Successful applicants will need to show:
- The proposed project will produce significant new revenue above donated start-up resources.
- The proposed project accesses dollars otherwise unavailable to the sector, thereby raising new money rather than simply redirecting funds that would have been spent within the sector in any case.
Grant cycle and applications
The RFP for organizational mergers and collaborations is released every March. Proposals are due at the beginning of May. Grant awards will be decided in September.
Please direct all inquiries to Jim Lewis, Senior Program Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find more details about grant opportunities, and sign up for email notifications when they open, inside GrantCentral, our new online grant management system. Sign up and create an account for full access to grant programs at the Trust.