2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the LGBTQ Community Fund (the Fund) at The Chicago Community Trust, and 2021 marked the beginning of the Fund’s second decade. In this Q&A, co-chairs Katherine Groninger, PhD, and Alan Harder share their thoughts about the Fund’s impact and what is on the horizon.
Why did you get involved with the LGBTQ Community Fund?
Katherine Groninger: My work with the Fund enables me to impact a broad range of groups serving the diverse needs of our population. Since 2015, the Fund has made gifts to 44 organizations through 74 grants to organizations helping youth to seniors with needs spanning health care, employment, violence prevention, housing, and more. Our high-impact and responsive giving focused on the unique needs of the LGBTQ population is extraordinarily special philanthropy.
Alan Harder: I got involved because I saw a need for there to be an organization like the Fund which can assess the gaps in the LGBTQ landscape and fund to fill them. We are in a moment in history where LGBTQ rights are advancing but that might not always be the case. With an endowment and an active grant making program we can ensure that Chicago is a leading city in providing for the needs of its LGBTQ community in perpetuity.
What has been the Fund’s impact so far?
KG: The Fund has made a very tangible impact by granting over $2.2 million to LGBTQ-serving programs since the first grant was awarded in 2015. The Fund differs from other philanthropic groups because it immediately distributes the money it raises, trying to get as many resources into the community as possible through thoughtful grant making. The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust and Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust have been uniquely generous benefactors underwriting the Fund’s administrative work, enabling gifts made for grant making to be used for that sole purpose.
Yet our work extends beyond its financial impact. The Fund has commissioned two research studies assessing the LGBTQ community’s real-time needs. In being responsive to those needs, we have raised awareness of those unique and evolving LGBTQ needs within Chicago’s philanthropic community.
What are the current needs of the LGBTQ community?
KG: The LGBTQ Community Fund identified the community’s needs through research, conducting needs assessments in 2011 and in 2019. Data collected from 70+ organizations and 2,000 LGBTQ Chicagoans has informed our funding goals.
The research identified high priority issues the LGBTQ community faces, which include:
Community safety and violence prevention
Culturally responsive health care
Equity in the job market
Access to human and government services
The Fund aligns its grant making with these significant ongoing challenges, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the need.
How has the donor community invested in the Fund?
AH: Thanks to our partnership with The Chicago Community Trust, it is easy to make a one-time or multi-year gift to the LGBTQ Community Fund, which will be used for grant making. To date, we have been supported by over 160 donors. To ensure the Fund’s long-term sustainability, we also have plans to grow our endowment, which now sits at $1.3 million, with a goal to reach $5 million by 2030.
Tell us about the future of the Fund?
KG: The pandemic provided our hands-on Steering Committee the space to reflect and assess the Fund itself. Now commencing our second decade, the question is how best to make the greatest impact on Chicago’s LGBTQ community: how can we continually improve, ensure sustainability, hone our processes, and best measure success? The Steering Committee is currently drafting ‘Plan 2030,’ our strategy to carry the Fund forward. Importantly, we will begin grant making in the second half of 2022. And we are continually in fundraising mode to support this vital work.
AH: We also have plans to celebrate the first 10 years in June 2022. Recently, Prue Beidler, Denise Foy, and Ken O’Keefe cycled out of leadership roles and have become Life Members of the Steering Committee. The Fund was launched in 2010 through the multi-year efforts of James L. Alexander, Prue Beidler, and Patrick Sheahan who worked with the Trust to launch the effort. We also recognize the dedicated volunteer efforts of Steering Committee Members Bonita Burrell and Liz Garibay who recently completed their service.