News and analysis
October 09, 2015

Chicago Grant Maker Promises More General Operating Support

Nathan Richards/The Daily Northwestern
Terry Mazany, Head of Chicago Community Trust, takes aim at burdensome grant-reporting requirements and announces a focus on inequality in the city.

Criticizing foundations for burdening nonprofits with heavy reporting requirements, the head of the Chicago Community Trust said this week that it would award general operating grants to the city’s "anchor organizations."

The new grants will range from $35,000 to $300,000, according to the trust.

"As foundations, we have been rightfully accused of creating too much administrative work that takes nonprofit resources away from their mission and establishing grant requirements that distort a nonprofit’s mission in order to satisfy funder priorities," Terry Mazany, president of the Chicago Community Trust, said during the trust’s "State of the Community" event on Wednesday. "Some of the things we do actually undermine your ability to be successful."

Although the grant sizes will vary by organization, Mr. Mazany said they will make up "a significant part of our grant portfolio."

His comments were met with applause from the audience.

The Chicago Community Trust

The announcement came three months after the Ford Foundation announced it would double the amount of money it gives to general operating support.

Fighting Inequities

Also like the Ford Foundation, the trust aims to tackle inequality as it heads into its second century. Mr. Mazany did not mince words as he outlined the challenges facing Chicago, citing state government dysfunction and the economic disparity, racism, and segregation that plague the city.

"We must stop kicking the can of racism down the road for the next generation to resolve," he said.

Mr. Mazany said the trust picked its new priorities by taking cues from the issues participants in its two "On The Table" conversations identified as the city’s most pressing: economic issues and poverty; equity and social inclusion; and education and youth development.

And he called on all Chicagoans to join the effort to make life more equitable in the city.

"Progress will only result from thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations, each working to make their own contribution that adds up to a greater solution," he said.

Send an email to Rebecca Koenig.