The Trust seeks to inspire philanthropy within the Chicago metropolitan region for one simple reason: Because the more resources we can provide that go toward solving education, housing, hunger, homelessness, violence and healthcare issues, the stronger the entire area becomes. Joining forces makes us a thriving community that is more attractive to families and to businesses seeking new locations.
We have only just begun to measure our potential status as the most philanthropic region in the country. A study we conducted earlier in 2015 allowed us to compare the Chicago area to national statistics, but not yet to compare Chicago to other cities. The study established a benchmark for our own giving, and in three years we will measure it again to determine how much it has grown. When other cities undertake the same kind of study, we will be able to compare Chicago to individual regions as opposed to the country as a whole.
The Chicago Community Trust looks to our communities to ask, “What are the big issues that must be addressed in order for the city to continue to prosper?” By engaging citizens, we have learned more about how to formulate a plan to move forward.
Addressing any of the big issues simply costs too much for any single source to be able to solve alone. Via our new strategic plan, the Trust’s co-investment approach enables donors to put their assets together with other donors’ assets, with those of the Trust, or with those of other foundations. Every possible combination provides additional leverage to make a greater impact.
It works in both directions. The Trust could start a co-investment idea, or new co-investment ideas could come from a different foundation or any individual donor. Through co-investment, every donor has the opportunity not only to be a part of a larger initiative, but also to start a larger initiative themselves through the Trust.
“Leading change” means that The Chicago Community Trust can take the lead in creating or pulling a group of people together to ask, “How do we solve this issue? What will it take? What kind of community involvement does it entail? What kind of money does it require?” The Trust can invite other people to participate—whether they are experts, or people who live in a neighborhood that is impacted by a given issue. The Trust has the unique ability to convene the right people to catalyze and bring forth new solutions to community problems.
All four of the areas identified by the Trust for leading change are extremely important to the health and well-being of the Chicago area, and they all need the kind of focused attention that our co-investment model can offer.
In addition to supporting essential needs, the Trust will pursue transformative change in four priority areas:
• economic development
• sustainable communities
• community vitality
In addition to funding, we will drive change by building partnerships that maximize our impact.
Beyond listening to the community itself via On the Table and other Trust initiatives, we at the Trust also listen very closely to our donors. Individuals bring ideas or projects to our attention and often the Trust will contribute toward those projects.
The Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement at the University of Illinois at Chicago was our partner in the survey of 2,400 respondents to the On the Table 2014. The ideas that emerged from that community conversation helped direct some of the ideas in our new strategic plan. The voices from On the Table 2015 further influenced our efforts going forward.
The more money and time that people in the Chicago region put toward supporting or volunteering for nonprofit organizations, the stronger the community as a whole will become. That’s precisely why we seek to inspire the Chicago area to become the most philanthropic region in the country.