Stronger Nonprofits Initiative: 20 organizations served, countless ideas and connections sparked March 14, 2019

In late 2017, when JPMorgan Chase pledged $40 million to connect Chicago South and West side residents with economic opportunity, IFF teamed up with Fiscal Management Associates (FMA) to administer the Stronger Nonprofits Initiative (SNI). The three organizations’ goal was clear: Support some of the highest-impact nonprofits in Chicago that are led by or predominantly serve people and communities of color.

Since then, 20 Chicago nonprofits – providers of early childhood education, workforce development, affordable housing, and other vital services – have benefited from the program, which pairs IFF’s expertise in loans and real estate consulting with FMA’s expertise in financial management training.

It’s a potent combination. As Vickie Lakes-Battle, IFF’s Executive Director of the Chicago Region, explains, “When you give visionary people and organizations time to invest in themselves and access to the right resources, they can have an even bigger impact.”

Those resources include:

  • A series of financial workshops with no more than 10 nonprofits per group, designed to foster peer learning, networking, and idea sharing
  • One-on-one financial coaching tailored to address each organization’s specific needs
  • Facility plan reviews and analyses – a big boost for nonprofit leaders who may not have experience leading the organizations through a relocation, renovation, or expansion
  • Affordable rate financing for any resulting facility-related projects

According to program surveys and interviews, participants walk away with a wide range of ideas, connections, and new opportunities. For some, it’s a chance to expand their network of nonprofit peers and collaborators. Others gain a better understanding of when and how to address simmering issues with their facilities or devise a plan for refreshing their budget processes.

“SNI reminded me and our leadership team of a few best practices that should continue over time – for example, ensuring the budget process is inclusive and begins with an overall strategy, versus simply being the function of budgeting among quite a few strategies for ensuring longer-term fiscal health,” says Dara Munson, CEO of Chicago Child Care Society.

Munson is among a second wave of leaders to join the program. The group completed three financial management workshops with FMA in late 2018 and continues to tap coaching and real estate consulting services.

Here is a full list of program participants:

  • Albany Park Community Center, a social services agency that serves one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods – over 40 languages are spoken in Albany Park – through early childhood education, workforce development, counseling, and other programs.
  • Austin Coming Together, which focuses on providing early education, safe neighborhoods, living-wage careers, and affordable housing to Austin’s predominantly Black community.
  • Bright Star Community Outreach, an organization focused on violence prevention, community engagement, economic development, education, and healthy children/youth and families.
  • BUILD, Inc., one of Chicago’s leading violence prevention and youth development organizations.
  • Centers for New Horizons, which runs a range of community programs for children and youth, families, and seniors, from North Lawndale through Riverdale.
  • Chicago Child Care Society, which serves more than 1,500 children, youth, and parents each year in Chicago’s South, Southwest, and South Suburban areas.
  • Chicago Commons Association, which operates early education, family, and senior centers across the South and West sides.
  • Chinese Mutual Aid Association, a community-based social services agency that assists low-income immigrants, refugees, and others.
  • Community Assistance Programs, a workforce development provider based on the South side.
  • Far South Community Development Corporation, spearheading community development that improves access to healthy food, jobs, and housing on the South side.
  • Greater Chatham Initiative, which invests in Chatham, Greater Grand Crossing, Avalon Park, and Auburn Gresham so that they become communities of opportunity and choice.
  • Greater West Town Community Development Project, which provides job training and placement, youth education, and career development to Greater West Town communities.
  • Ignite (formerly Teen Living Programs), which helps youth on the South side who are experiencing homelessness.
  • Inspiration Corporation, which provides a variety of programs that help people exit homelessness and poverty.
  • Instituto del Progreso Latino, based on the West side and helping Latin(x) immigrants and their families through education, training, and employment.
  • La Casa Norte, providing permanent, transitional, and emergency housing options across 43 Chicago zip codes.
  • LUCHA, a housing advocate anchored in Humboldt Park and mainly serving the area’s Latino and Spanish-speaking populations.
  • National Latino Education Institute, whose workforce development programs help Latinos seeking economic independence.
  • North Lawndale Employment Network, which offers employment services and transitional jobs to North Lawndale residents, many of whom face significant barriers to employment.
  • Rebuild Foundation, founded by vaunted artist Theaster Gates to provide free arts programming, create cultural amenities, and develop affordable housing and live-work spaces on the South side and beyond.

Learn more about SNI.

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