During times of crises, communities’ most entrenched challenges are often amplified. As Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other public officials issued stay-at-home directives to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the impacts of closed schools and businesses hit especially hard in the Chicago region’s most vulnerable communities.
Yet crises also present opportunities for communities to come together and play to their strengths. Metropolitan Chicago is widely recognized to have one of the nation’s most engaged civic communities, with a long history of teaming up to tackle the most pressing challenges. In that spirit, The Chicago Community Trust collaborated with United Way of Metro Chicago, in partnership with the City of Chicago to create the Chicago Community COVID-19 Respond Fund (CCRF) This fund was launched in a matter of days and had dollars out and in the hands of local organizations in less than a week.
At the highest level, the fund is a testament to collaboration not only at the Trust, but across the Chicago region.
This rapid-fire response—which so far has raised more than $20 million to support over 140 frontline organizations—is a testament to how the Trust’s work is rooted in collaboration. Using a model that emerged during this crisis of Community Foundations and United Ways working together, our two institutions quickly agreed to leverage our complementary strengths to work together. Internally, the Trust’s Community Impact team, that has deep knowledge of community needs and our philanthropic services team that understands the donor landscape partnered to raise and disperse much needed funds.
“While our departments have clearly defined roles and functions, our shared vision is for equity, opportunity and prosperity for our region—and we do our work in the same way, by cultivating meaningful relationships,” said Anna Lee, a program director in the community impact team.
These meaningful relationships and expertise of Chicago were critical in the early days of the fund. Guided by our deep knowledge of the community, we fulfilled our legacy by funding, leading, convening and collaborating to address the greatest and most critical needs facing the Chicago region as a result of COVID-19.
Between March 12 and March 16—the fund’s launch date—Lee and her team worked in tandem with Joan Garvey Lundgren, head of resource development for the Trust’s Philanthropic Services team. Together, they recruited founding corporate and philanthropic donors to establish the fund. Then Lee shifted her efforts to identifying grant recipients, while Garvey Lundgren continued to recruit funding partners.
“Donors are increasingly thinking more intentionally about the impact of their philanthropy, and similarly donors who care about the same issues are collaborating more,” said Lundgren.
These much-needed funds have helped organization’s like Northwest Side Housing Center deliver direct cash assistance to residents and place wellness checks on residents, many of whom are older; Family Independence Initiative provided $500,000 in direct cash for mortgage and rent assistance; and Inner-City Muslim Action Network on the city’s Southwest side provided 5,000 care packages to seniors and others in need.
At the highest level, the fund is a testament to collaboration not only at the Trust, but across the Chicago region. The partnership between the United Way and the Trust has been seamless. Thousands of individual donors have chipped in, including nearly $5 million from Trust donors, helping to grow the initial fund of $3.5 to where it is today
Bringing together partners from philanthropy, business, Chicago’s sports teams and donors both big and small, we have built a community that is acting together to inform and achieve shared goals of health and safety.
With more than 293,000 people in Illinois now unemployed and the weeks ahead of us are projected to be the worst in terms of the number of confirmed cases and deaths, people already experiencing the instability to care for themselves will need even more services and support.
We will need this community more than ever to join the next round of funding. Individuals and organizations can contribute to and learn more about the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund by visiting www.chicagocovid19responsefund.org.