Leveraging collective giving, for a bigger impact than any of us can make alone. That’s the principle behind the Young Leaders Fund, which celebrated its 20th year on May 7 with a celebration for the nine outstanding small nonprofits honored with this year’s grants.
YLF invites the region’s young professionals to make an annual membership donation, which builds the endowment that sustainably generates grant dollars. However, for members who seek a more hands-on experience, YLF offers a rich connection to community.
Through three interest groups (arts & culture; childhood development & education; community & economic development) members can conduct site visits and evaluations, then make grant recommendations to the full Fund membership. This practical philanthropy immerses members in a deeper understanding of Chicago’s neighborhood needs—and the innovative solutions emerging to meet them.
For many nonprofits, a YLF grant is the first they receive. The funding helps propel their programs to a new level, while the mark of endorsement from the Fund, an affiliate of The Chicago Community Trust, can open new doors.
At this year’s reception, a student from the Viola Project brought new life to a familiar soliloquy from The Merchant of Venice. In the Elizabethan era, the role—like every role—would have been performed by a male actor. But it gained new depths in the hands of this girls’ empowerment project, which uses Shakespeare to unite and inspire young women ages 10 to 16. Viola Project will use the grant to expand their program into a South Side neighborhood.
Other 2015 grant recipients include:
- I Paint My Mind, which brings great art beyond museums and into local shared spaces, for everyone in our community to encounter
- The Simple Good, a youth art program that uses both hands-on programs and online platforms, connecting students worldwide around the powerful message that “good” means the same to all of us.
- Pilot Light, which builds children’s healthy relationships with food through a classroom curriculum that weaves nutrition knowledge into everyday subjects like English, math and science.
- Strive Tutoring, a free program providing one-to-one tutoring, extracurricular activities and summer sessions for kids on Chicago’s South Side.
- A Night Out, providing adult survivors of domestic violence with safe, healthy social experiences where they can build confidence and feel that life holds new possibilities.
- Kordero’s Dream, whose MVP Training equips young men in urban communities for high performance in the workforce, education and life.
- Kusanya Café, a nonprofit coffee shop in Englewood that provides career opportunities, community event space and many more pathways for local connection and empowerment.
- Madonna Mission, providing education and resettlement support programs for refugee individuals and families in an environment of respect, dignity and love.
Co-chair Erika Grim explained the Fund’s commitment to supporting nonprofits with budgets under $250,000. “The grants we’re giving will have immense impact. Your budget may be small, but the difference you make is a big one.”