GO Grants Turn One: A Year of Funding, Listening and Learning

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Embracing a focus on leading change, inspiring philanthropy and engaging residents has changed how the Trust does business.

In order to better serve our nonprofit partners, in 2016 the Trust launched a program of general operating grants—or “GO Grants”—to organizations committed to addressing chronic needs in our communities.

We’ve listened to the passionate, hard-working nonprofit leaders across the Chicago region who report that narrowly defined grant opportunities can distort an organization’s mission in order to qualify for funding. In addition, rigid application and reporting requirements demand extensive administrative work—draining resources and energy away from their core work of providing critical services.

By the Numbers: The Trust’s first year of GO Grant funding

  • more than $16 million in GO Grants
  • more than $32 million in total competitive grants (GO Grants + responsive grants)
  • 285 recipient organizations of GO Grant funding

For organizations like these, general operating support is an essential lifeline. As a recent feature in Inside Philanthropy explains, “Not only are such organizations meeting needs that are constant and recurring, but they often need to be nimble in the face of certain kinds of urgent situations.”

By providing general operating support, we streamline our grant making process to ease the burden on nonprofits. And we invest in our nonprofit partners with a vote of confidence for their expertise and their excellence in helping neighborhoods thrive.


GO Grants provide stable support for key nonprofit partners providing services that are essential for thriving communities. Here’s what you should know:

  • Strength in numbers. For each issue area, we have awarded a number of GO Grants to nonprofits working to move the needle through their own approach. These organizations together form a learning cohort to share knowledge and build collaboration. By convening these cohorts, the Trust continues to learn lessons from the front line in the fight to stabilize and strengthen our communities.
  • Return on investment. We continue to measure and report the impact of our grant making—focusing on collective outcomes achieved through the cohort’s combined and complementary efforts. As Peggy Davis, chief officer of programs and strategic initiatives, explains, “Working closely with these nonprofits, we are designing and testing a plan for impact measurement that will be used as the program continues to grow.”
  • Complex problems, multifaceted approach. GO Grants are not the only type of competitive grants. We continue to award responsive grants, for projects and initiatives that lead change in important issue areas, as well as grants to inspire philanthropy and engage residents.
  • A new beginning. The GO Grant initiative launched with a two-year pilot phase, working with nonprofits who have received funding from the Trust in the past to provide essential services. As the program evolves based on what we learn, GO Grant opportunities are expected to open further in the future.


View the complete list of the Trust’s grants in fiscal year 2016, including GO Grants and responsive grants, in our 2016 philanthropic data report.