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A New Strategic Vision

Trust CEO Terry Mazany talks new strategic plan, inspiring philanthropy, grant making for the future Tweet This

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What you do matters.

At The Chicago Community Trust, we know that every day, countless individuals and organizations work passionately making a difference in the lives of others.

We know that the challenges we face across the region will not be solved by “quick fix” solutions that offer a one-size-fits-all remedy. In fact, progress will only result from thousands of individuals and organizations working to make their own contributions that add up to a greater solution.

People like Kevin Coval, founder of Young Chicago Authors, who is working to engage youth in what he calls “radical inclusivity” on display at weekly open mic nights. Or Blair Brettschneider, who founded GirlForward—an organization that provides adolescent refugee girls with mentoring and educational opportunities as they adjust to life in the United States. Or Mohammad Ouyoun, who created an app that gives transit directions to those who use wheelchairs, opening doors of opportunity to people with disabilities. Or Cabrini Green Legal Aid, a group that partners with law firms, corporate legal departments and law schools to tap thousands of pro bono hours. Or Chicago Cares. In short: people like you.

Blair Brettschneider with the girls of GirlForward
Blair Brettschneider with the students of GirlForward, an organization providing adolescent refugee girls with mentoring and educational opportunities as they adjust to life in the United States.

I am keenly aware of what a rare privilege it is to be in service to this special community of donors, nonprofit and civic leaders who work together to create a greater good for our city and our region. In many ways, each day through my role at the Trust, I witness a highlight reel of the best of Chicagoland.

The Chicago Community Trust’s new strategic direction is deeply rooted in what we’ve learned from residents through On the Table, an initiative that invites Chicagoland residents to come together over mealtime conversations to discuss how we can make our region safer, stronger and more dynamic, and through our ongoing work in the community.

Our vision is for metropolitan Chicago to be the most philanthropic region in the nation. To accomplish this, the Trust’s grants and initiatives over the next five years will focus on:

  • Inspiring philanthropy in all its forms: time, talent and treasure;
  • Engaging residents to work with one another for the common good; and
  • Leading change to solve the most pressing issues and responding to the big opportunities within our communities: education, economic development, sustainable communities and community vitality.
Carolos Leon and two volunteers with his BuildOn organization
Carlos Leon, at left, whose conversation with a homeless man in Chicago inspired him to lead his fellow volunteers of BuildOn in assembling and distributing boxes with food, a warm winter hat and a handmade greeting card to homeless men and women in the Loop.

Our focus on these three areas will change how the Trust does business. This is good news for nonprofits across the Chicago region and those they serve. Effective January 2016, the Trust will begin to provide general operating grants (or “GO Grants”) for organizations committed to addressing chronic needs in our communities. We will also be streamlining our grant making process, which we expect will lessen the administrative burden of pursuing grants for our nonprofit partners.

In addition, as the Trust expands our focus on collaboration, coinvestment and impact, we hope to generate new resources and opportunities for our current and new nonprofit partners.

LaVerne Morris, a volunteer liaison for Chicago Cares in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood
LaVerne Morris, a lifelong resident of Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing, serves as the neighborhood’s volunteer liaison for Chicago Cares, leading projects like community gardens and murals. “When you grow up in a neighborhood and see it changing,” she says, “you try to do things to keep it intact, to restore it.”

The Chicago Community Trust looks forward to working with our donors and grant recipients to create a thriving region in which all residents enjoy a high quality of life and opportunities for a better future.

Adapted from Terry Mazany’s remarks at the State of Community event at the Chicago Hilton on October 7, 2015. You can read the complete address here.