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Chicago Commitment

Our Goal

Chicago—a city that is connected and integrated, where prosperity is shared, opportunity is equitable, and civic and cultural assets are available to everyone.

Why We Support This Work

For 40 years, we have been committed to Chicago, its people, its diverse neighborhoods, its strength and vitality. We have invested more in the Chicago region than in any other place around the world: $1.4 billion in more than 1,500 organizations and individuals. We believe our goal requires support for strong organizations, vital communities, influential leaders, and civic partnerships through which leaders align their energies and resources for greater impact.

Our approach reflects advice we received from conversations with individuals, organizations, and civic leaders across the city and suburbs, sharing a wide array of experience and expertise on local issues. Our areas of focus were designed with the priorities of Chicagoans in mind—taking heed of what residents and leaders believe are the most urgent concerns and promising solutions.  We will continue to reflect openly and honestly about progress and challenges as we pursue our goal for the Chicago metropolitan area.

Our Approach

Strong Organizations

Civil society organizations are the bedrock of Chicago's non-governmental infrastructure, advancing the goal of a city that is connected, integrated, prosperous, and equitable. MacArthur reinforces this civic and community infrastructure by supporting strong organizations to fuel innovation, improve organizational effectiveness, and pursue opportunities for growth. This commitment includes our continuing support for a vibrant creative sector that reaches virtually every neighborhood in the city.


Community Capital

Drawing on a decade of experience making institutional support awards, we bolster organizations with strong potential for long-term success in achieving their missions. In Chicago, we award Community Capital Grants, which provide institutional support that organizations can use for:

  • Innovation, which may include testing a concept, launching a pilot project, or facilitating a new collaboration.
  • Strength, which may support professional development or strategic, financial, and operational planning and investment.  
  • Growth, which may incorporate acquisitions, new investments, entry into new markets, or outreach to new audiences. Benefit Chicago, a collaboration of MacArthur, the Chicago Community Trust, and Calvert Impact Capital, supports growth through impact investments.

These critical organizations have a clear vision, mission, and goals. They are acknowledged as successful by the communities they serve, and their leaders generously share their time and expertise with others. These organizations and their leaders are resilient, generative, compassionate partners. They help educate, strengthen, and connect others, with a goal of tackling systemic barriers and increasing the stability, power, and effectiveness of the community as a whole.

Community Capital Grants for innovation may represent a one-time infusion of capital, while grants for strength and growth typically provide support for two to four years. For each type of capital, we consider an organization's track record or promise, connection to communities, and commitment to peer learning and support.

Each year, we will announce a focus for Community Capital Grants, which may be extended into future years, based on circumstances. These grants benefit organizations that play a critical role in the focused area. Information on the current focus is included in the grant guidelines.

From time to time, we will invite applications for Community Capital Grants from organizations working in other areas of important concern.    

More about Community Capital Grants ›
Community Capital Grant Guidelines ›


Culture, Equity, and the Arts

We support local organizations with a primary focus on arts and culture and organizations that are arts-centered, meaning that art is integral to executing an organization’s mission but may not be the organization’s primary goal. Our support includes multi-year, unrestricted, general operating grants to provide flexible, reliable funding that helps organizations maintain stability, plan ahead, pursue new ideas, and invest in new artistic directions. A vibrant creative sector helps individuals explore their passions, develop their identity and potential, confront challenging topics, and connect with one another. We support organizations directly and through two intermediary partners, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts. 

More about support for the creative sector ›

Our support for strong organizations also includes workshops and other training opportunities to foster shared learning and continuing development. These may take the form of peer learning and exchanges with a focus on topics such as financial management, leadership, staff and board development, strategic planning, or other areas of interest.


Civic Partnerships

Chicago's civic landscape is notable for its broad network of philanthropic, corporate, government, and nonprofit organizations. Civic partnerships leverage the collective assets of these leaders and organizations for greater impact.

We are part of a network of local funders that often come together to support major civic endeavors. These partnerships may address a unique opportunity, such as the establishment of a visitor center at the Pullman National Monument, or the dedication of a living monument to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Marquette Park.

We also join timely, issue-focused civic partnerships. Building on activities initiated in the prior year, in 2017, we joined more than 30 peer funders in a cooperative effort called the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. The Partnership is a coalition of philanthropic organizations that align their funding around strategies to help reduce gun violence in Chicago in collaboration with community, public, and private sector leaders. 

The Partnership supports direct engagement services and alternatives for those most affected by violence in targeted neighborhoods; police legitimacy and reform; and gun policy—to help create the conditions for violence prevention and reduction.

In addition, to support smaller organizations working during the summer at the neighborhood and block-level to build community cohesion, crowd out violence, and promote safety and peace, members of the Partnership support the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

More about Civic Partnerships ›


Vital Communities

Vital Communities responds to new leadership, talent, and initiative emerging in city neighborhoods, while continuing to support mature community development approaches that have potential to realize significant impact. Our support is intended to strengthen economic and social vitality in neighborhoods. Many of these neighborhoods have considerable assets, such as engaged residents, enterprising youths, and well-maintained housing stock, but have experienced disinvestment, segregation, racism, and isolation. Rather than promote a single model or approach, we will support a variety of locally focused, community-driven initiatives to connect Chicago residents to local, regional, national, and even global sources of social and economic opportunity. Support under Vital Communities is designed to support local leadership and initiative, strengthen community organizations and networks, enhance collective action, and ensure that data, analytics, policy analysis, and other forms of technical assistance are available to organizations that partner in these efforts.

More about Vital Communities ›
Vital Communities Grant Guidelines ›


Influential Leaders

We promote and advance diverse leadership whose influence will inform and improve decisionmaking across the city. We include leaders who represent a broad array of Chicago residents, with diversity of race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and expertise; people with disabilities; and those from different geographies and income levels. Through grants and other investments, our goal is to enhance and expand leadership opportunities for civic actors, providing existing programs with additional resources and new avenues for peer learning and networking, facilitating access to elected and appointed officials and other leaders, and supporting new vehicles and pathways to influence.

As part of our Chicago Commitment, we seek to advance equity and access to opportunity and to foster conditions that recognize and promote people of color in leadership positions.

More about Influential Leaders ›


Expected Outcomes

In the long run, the Chicago Commitment will demonstrate the following outcomes through each of four areas of grantmaking:

Strong Organizations

We expect Community Capital grants to result in:

  • Strengthened organizations, including professional development, strategic, financial, and operational planning and investment; 
  • Growth, including funding for acquisitions, investments, market entry, or outreach to audiences; and
  •  Innovation, including testing a concept, launching a pilot project, or facilitating collaboration.

 We expect our general operating support to result in:

  • Stronger, more effective, and stable arts and culture organizations;
  • Exceptional levels of performance or presentation in the creative sector; and
  • Amplified voices of those who are often unheard.

Civic Partnerships

In cooperation with 30 local funders and other civic actors, our engagement in civic partnerships is being harnessed toward violence prevention and community safety. Over the next two to three years, we expect to see:

  • A reduction in gun violence;
  • Affected individuals access more supportive services, including transitional jobs and therapy, to reduce involvement in violence; and
  • Increased trust and respect between police officers and Chicago residents. 

Vital Communities

We expect Vital Communities programming to result in:

  • Improved physical, social, and economic health of the city;
  • Improved circumstances for targeted populations; and
  • Increased partnerships among funders and other investors in community revitalization.

Influential Leaders

We expect leadership programming to result in:

  • Overlapping networks that facilitate peer learning and career advancement, and that mobilize action around shared goals; and
  • Increased support for emerging leaders, such as through coaching, peer learning, and/or individual exploration of personal leadership goals.

Culture, Equity, and the Arts

We expect Culture, Equity, and the Arts programming to result in:

  • A vibrant cultural life for the city;
  • Amplified voices of those who are often unheard;
  • Stronger, more effective, and stable arts and culture organizations;
  • Greater flexibility for arts and culture nonprofits to innovate and experiment;
  • Exceptional and challenging performances, exhibits, and experiences; and
  • Greater access to arts-centered opportunities and resources for historically underserved communities.


Funding Priorities

Strong Organizations ›
Providing institutional support to organizations to help them gain strength, innovate, and grow

Civic Partnerships ›
Participating in local partnerships with civic leaders and organizations to work on critical or timely challenges facing the city

Vital Communities ›
Investing targeted resources in a small number of organizations focused on place-based initiatives, promising new ventures and regional field support

Influential Leaders ›
Promoting and advancing diverse leaders whose influence will inform and improve decision making across the city

Culture, Equity, and the Arts ›
Reflecting diverse creative sector voices and sustaining the creative life of the city

Measurements & Evaluation for Learning

The Chicago Commitment has engaged an evaluation and learning partner to measure and evaluate the progress of our strategy, test assumptions underpinning it, and collect information about the context in which the strategy operates. The focus of these activities is on learning. We aim to understand how the strategy contributes to a Chicago that is more equitable and where justice can thrive.

Findings and analysis from evaluation activities will be published as they become available.


Updated August 2019

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