Small nonprofits benefit from the Forum Fund's grants and business expertise.
Executives John Keller and Sandy McNally know that nonprofit organizations need more than just donations to grow: they need to operate with a business mindset. So Keller and McNally created a donor advised fund at The Chicago Community Trust that allows them to not only donate, but also mentor emerging nonprofits.
A Wealth of Resources
Keller, president of The Keller Group, and McNally, former chairman and CEO of Rand McNally, established the Forum Fund in 2004 with eight fellow entrepreneurs they met in the 1980s: Gordon Segal of Crate and Barrel; Barry MacLean of MacLean-Fogg Company; James Frank of Wheels, Inc.; commercial real estate titan Marvin Herb, who was previously president of Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Chicago; Michael Moskow, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; David Moscow of the Levy Circulating Company; James Leider of Leider Horticultural Co.; and Howard Dean, president of Dean Foods Company.
Every year the Trust provides a list of vetted nonprofits that fit the Forum Fund's grant making criteria. The duo visits those organizations, then recommend to the Fund which nonprofits should receive grants.
"The real reward here for us is we're helping really successful small charitable organizations to evolve into bigger, more important charitable organizations," McNally says.
"Whatever money we give them makes a bigger difference than if we give it to [large, stable nonprofits like] the Chicago Symphony," says Keller. "And secondly, there may be an opportunity for us to participate in some way in their activities by our contacts or our ideas."
Investing in Growth
TimeLine Theatre has received support from the Forum Fund for six years. The consistent funding is vital to the small theater, but artistic director P.J. Powers also credits Keller and McNally's guidance in part for helping the theater expand. Since its first grant from the Forum Fund, TimeLine has grown from one full-time and one part-time employee to six full-time and 12 part-time employees. The theater's budget has increased from $500,000 to more than $1 million a year.
"Their encouragement and enthusiasm and business savvy is really, really valued," Powers says. "They took a chance on a small upstart company and have really helped us mature."
Return on Investment
While Keller and McNally are proud of the impact the Forum Fund has made, they are also pleased that it has encouraged the members of the fund to pursue other philanthropic activities.
"In most cases, these are successful entrepreneurs who did not have a strong habit or history of philanthropic contributions," Keller says. "Because of the success of this effort, they have seen how money and business advice given to a nonprofit can make a difference."