The New Flexible Funding Program Supports and Accelerates Community-Driven Investment

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The Chicago Community Trust granted $1.2 million to community-driven investment-focused organizations to move forward on neighborhood opportunities that attract capital and leverage resources.

We are in the midst of a health pandemic and a reckoning with entrenched systems of racial inequity. This moment is calling us to think deeply about the systems of inequity that got us here and to act creatively together to build a Chicago region that is truly equitable.

This moment has also shone a spotlight on the vital importance of neighborhood-based organizations that operate in Black and Latinx communities that have suffered from disinvestment and a lack of resources. By embracing the expertise, power and solutions that are found within the neighborhoods themselves, these organizations are leading the way to ensure communities of color are not left behind as the region recovers. However, the reality is that community-based organizations have been historically undercapitalized or dependent upon restricted grant dollars for their projects, making them less adaptable. This lack of flexible capital is a challenge for community-based organizations that are working hard to secure resources that help realize neighborhood priorities.

While creating The Chicago Community Trust’s strategic plan to close the Chicago region’s racial and ethnic wealth gap, we knew that steady, socially driven investments in disinvested neighborhoods would require the participation of financially stable, resilient and nimble organizations deeply rooted in and connected to the community. Furthermore, we knew that community-based organizations face fundamental barriers and limitations that inhibit their ability to participate in the collaborative work that leads to social change. According to the many practitioners engaged during the Trust’s strategy development process in 2019, mechanisms to connect stakeholders across myriad sectors, geographies and disciplines are largely unsupported and unfunded. When connection does happen, the critical voice of the “community” is often missing from collaborative tables.

For the region, this is a moment to realize our collaborative potential, where every neighborhood investment challenge is within reach of a solution. Through a new philanthropic opportunity – the Flexible Funding Program – the Trust will help to address how nonprofits are facing collaboration challenges and planning for sustainable futures to move forward on community issues that attract capital. The Flexible Funding initiative advances the Trust’s goal to Create the Conditions for Collaborative Community Investment, a strand of its Catalyzing Neighborhood Investment strategy.

The Flexible Funding Program supports and accelerates community-driven investment in Chicago’s majority Black and Latinx neighborhoods. The program provides resources to help organizations focused on community investment adapt, thrive and drive financial capital to the communities they serve. Our approach aims to build the capacity of organizations to engage with community partnerships and increase investment opportunities, as well as concentrate and coordinate community action to increase the amount and impact of community investment that is more aligned to community priorities. Under the Flexible Funding Program, selected organizations will be able to:

  • assess and identify organizational development opportunities;
  • apply to varied funding options: general operating, capacity-building and collaboration grants;
  • access third-party service providers to support capacity-building activities; and
  • participate in cohort learning and network building to strengthen community investment practices and knowledge.

We recognize this work is emergent and complex. As a new program of the Trust, we are committed to investing in the organizations that are central to neighborhood vitality, and looking at how we can reverse long-term inequities in resources and opportunities. The Flexible Funding Program will lead to resilient and nimble community-driven, investment-focused organizations with strong leaders and strategic collaborations.

While this first round of funding provides general operating support to invited organizations, grants for capacity building and collaboration will be available in Fall 2020 or Winter 2021.

The Chicago Community Trust is proud to partner with and support 14 organizations with a total of $1.2 million in multi-year general operating grants. All of the Flexible Funding grant recipients are serving populations or geographies that are disproportionately impacted by disinvestment. The following organizations are led by people of color and use community-centered approaches to planning and action:

  • Austin Coming Together ($100,000)
  • Back of The Yards Neighborhood Council ($100,000)
  • Economic Strategies Development Corporation ($100,000)
  • Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative ($50,000)
  • Endeleo Institute ($100,000)
  • Far South Community Development Corporation ($100,000)
  • Garfield Park Community Council ($100,000)
  • Greater Auburn Gresham Community Development Corporation ($100,000)
  • Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce ($50,000)
  • Greater Southwest Development Corporation ($100,000)
  • Latinos Progresando/Marshall Square Resource Network ($100,000)
  • North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council ($50,000)
  • Northwest Side Community Development Corporation ($50,000)
  • Quad Communities Development Corporation ($100,000)