Throughout The Chicago Community Trust’s 2021 fiscal year—October 2020 to September 2021, including 347 discretionary grants totaling $29.1 million—COVID-19 remained a persistent challenge.* The year’s final quarter of grant making, with some 100 discretionary and competitive grants totaling $17.5 million, highlighted the Trust’s dual focus on supporting work that will help close the region’s racial and ethnic wealth gap and responding to acute challenges Chicago communities are facing due to the pandemic.
On the latter front, the Trust made 10 grants in the fourth quarter through the first major round of funding from We Rise Together: For a Just and Equitable Recovery. These grants are advancing 10 community development projects set back by the economic impact of COVID-19. By unlocking some $70 million in stalled real estate developments, these grants will help catalyze equitable recovery in eight South and West Side Chicago neighborhoods that have experienced decades of disinvestment.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work that is foundational to our overall strategic goal, but when the community and our donors see things happen in a concrete way—such as these community development projects—it really makes a difference for them to know where our dollars are going,” said Peggy Davis, the Trust’s vice president of community impact.
To learn more about the immediate and long-term impacts the Trust is having in our region, read on for fourth quarter grantmaking highlights.
* Does not include grants made through partnership funds or in collaboration with the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust.
Catalyzing Neighborhood Investment
Between July and September, the Trust’s Catalyzing Neighborhood Investment (CNI) strategy made more than 30 grants worth $1.54 million to ensure communities have the components necessary to attract, retain, and own capital investment.
Grants made through the Pre-Development Fund are supporting near-term developments and helping put Black and Latinx developers and the communities they serve on a more level playing field with their white counterparts. If a developer doesn’t have a lot of capital at the start of a project, the project may never get off the ground. The Trust’s Pre-Development Fund covered the early-stage costs for four projects in the fourth quarter, including E.G. Woode, for transforming an abandoned 6,000 sq. ft. property along the 63rd Street corridor in Englewood into two restaurants and a kitchen facility for food entrepreneurs, and Westside Health Authority, for redeveloping a shuttered thrift store in Austin into a grocery store with fresh foods.
Other CNI grants support the broader community ecosystem that enables development. The Flexible Funding Program, which provides flexible dollars to Black and Latinx-led community-based organizations, made 13 general operating grants totaling more than $1 million. Neighborhood investment leaders like Austin Coming Together, Emerald South Economic Development Corporation, and Eighteenth Street Development Corp. will use the funding to increase financial stability, innovate, and participate in collaborative efforts to help attract new investment.
The Trust also made $15,000 grants to 10 community-based organizations to cover the costs of their collaboration with partners on the planning process for We Will Chicago, the City’s first comprehensive plan since 1966 and its future roadmap. Davis noted that the Trust’s support for the plan’s community engagement phase is to help ensure Black and Latinx residents have a voice in the future of their city.
Advocating for Policy Change
In 2020, for the first time, the Trust established its own policy agenda focused on closing the wealth gap while setting near-term, high-impact priorities for equitable economic recovery. In the fourth quarter, we made four inaugural grants totaling $350,000 through the Open Call for Ideas to Advance Policy.
“We are seeking partners to continue to learn about and support policymaking driven by those with lived experience and communities least likely to have a voice in the process,” said Ianna Kachoris, the Trust’s senior director of policy and advocacy. “We also want to be responsive to policy windows that are in front of the city, county, or state right now.”
For example, a $75,000 supplemental grant to Economic Security for Illinois is supporting its efforts, in partnership with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, on the legislatively mandated Future of Work Task Force. Over the coming year, said Kachoris, this task force is charged with examining the shifting nature of work and how state policy frameworks should adjust to the needs of workers today. The goal is to create the conditions for a strong Illinois economy that serves the current and future needs of Illinoisans, including higher pay, safer working conditions, and a modernized social safety net.
Addressing Critical Needs
Through this strategy, the Trust improves the overall wellbeing of families living in unstable or unsafe conditions, ultimately helping them gain firmer footing to participate in and benefit from the region’s economic prosperity.
Facebook made a $1 million donation to the Trust as part of its national initiative to support Black communities. In the fourth quarter, the Trust divided this funding between two existing Trust initiatives: the African American Legacy (AAL) affinity fund and Unity Fund, a donor-led initiative to help the most vulnerable people in our communities to thrive. In turn, AAL and Unity made sub-grants to organizations creating social cohesion in Black communities. This included MAAFA Redemption Project to serve high-risk young men ages 18-30 at the residential institute in West Garfield Park, through spiritual life coaching, housing, employment training, academic enrichment, and wrap-around social services, and Brave Space Alliance to support the trans-led LGBTQ Center, which offers affirming, culturally competent resources, programming, and services for LGBTQ individuals on Chicago’s South and West sides.
“Building social connections and collaboration is that very initial step to addressing critical needs,” said Davis. “These grants will support folks who are trying to make their neighborhoods better, like a group of neighbors, a block club, a community organization. This has been a good opportunity to build a relationship with Facebook with the hope of doing more.”