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.

For nearly 40 years, the Foundation has been committed to Chicago, its people, its diverse neighborhoods, its strength and vitality. MacArthur has invested more in the Chicago region than in any other place around the world: $1.2 billion in more than 1,500 organizations and individuals. We believe our goal requires support for strong and effective organizations, vital communities, influential leaders, and civic partnerships through which leaders align their energies and resources for greater impact. We will reflect openly and honestly about our progress and the challenges we face in the hope that others may learn from our work in Chicago.

Our Approach

Strong Organizations


Civic organizations are the bedrock of Chicago’s non-governmental infrastructure, advancing the goal of a city that is connected, integrated, prosperous, and equitable. MacArthur will reinforce this civic and community infrastructure by supporting strong organizations to fuel innovation, build capacity, and pursue opportunities for growth. This commitment includes our continuing support for a vibrant cultural ecosystem that reaches virtually every neighborhood in the city.

Community Capital

Drawing on a decade of Foundation experience making institutional support awards, we will bolster organizations with strong potential for long-term success in achieving their mission. 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 funding for new acquisitions, new investments, entry into new markets, or outreach to new audiences. A complementary initiative, Benefit Chicago, supports growth through impact investments.

Each year, the Foundation will announce a focus for Community Capital Grants, which may be extended, 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 guidelines below.

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 individuals and their organizations are resilient, generative, compassionate partners. They help educate, strengthen, and connect others, with a goal of tackling barriers and increasing the confidence, 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, the Foundation considers an organization’s track record or promise, connection to communities, and commitment to peer learning and support.

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

Please read the guidelines for our Community Capital Grants

Arts and Culture in Chicago

Our support for strong organizations includes multi-year, unrestricted, general operating grants to local arts and culture organizations to promote their organizational effectiveness, strength, and stability. The awards help grantee organizations maintain excellent levels of performance, presentation, and engagement, and provide flexibility to innovate and experiment. Support for the creative sector also helps elevate human potential, catalyzes economic development, and enables youth to pursue their passions in safe environments. We support organizations directly and through two intermediary partners, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts.

Please read more about our support for the creative sector, including grantmaking guidelines.

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 exchange and 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, and nonprofit organizations. MacArthur is part of a network of local funders that often comes together to support major civic endeavors. These may address a unique opportunity, such as the National Park Foundation’s designation of the historic Pullman neighborhood as an urban 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, the Foundation 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 are aligning their funding around strategies to help reduce gun violence in Chicago in collaboration with community, public, and private sector leaders. 

The Partnership is supporting three broad strategies—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 Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities. The 2017 Fund awarded grants of up to $10,000, totaling nearly $850,000, to 120 organizations.   

Civic partnerships leverage the collective assets of the philanthropic community and other civic, corporate, and government leaders for greater impact. Look for future updates on our civic partnerships.

Vital Communities


We are exploring ways to support locally-focused, community-driven initiatives to connect Chicago residents to local, regional, national, and even global sources of social and economic opportunity. Support for vital communities may include resources for community networks, improvements to local infrastructure, place-based development efforts, or collective action among community members. Our support is intended to strengthen economic and social vitality in neighborhoods that have experienced disinvestment, segregation, racism, and isolation. Previous awards for collective endeavors such as the Greater Chatham Initiative and programs in Pullman illustrate this type of support. We also will ensure that data, analytics, policy analysis, and other forms of technical assistance are available to organizations leading these efforts.   

Additional information about support for vital communities will be available later this year.

Influential Leaders


MacArthur will promote and advance diverse leadership whose influence will inform and improve decision making across the city. We will 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 creating new vehicles and pathways to influence.

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

Additional information about support for influential leaders will be available later this year.

Staff

Portrait of Stephanie Platz

Stephanie Platz

Managing Director, Programs
Portrait of Tara Magner

Tara Magner

Director, Chicago Commitment
Portrait of Craig Howard

Craig Howard

Director, Community & Economic Development
Portrait of Allison Clark

Allison Clark

Associate Director, Impact Investments
Portrait of Janice A. Dunbar

Janice A. Dunbar

Grants Manager
Portrait of Cate A. Fox

Cate A. Fox

Senior Program Officer, Chicago Commitment
Portrait of Soledad McGrath

Soledad McGrath

Program Officer, Criminal Justice
Portrait of Tawa Mitchell

Tawa Mitchell

Program Officer, Chicago Commitment
Portrait of Karen S. Hott

Karen S. Hott

Team Administrator, Chicago Commitment
Portrait of Louise Powell

Louise Powell

Team Coordinator, Chicago Commitment
Portrait of Emily B. Friedman

Emily B. Friedman

Associate General Counsel