The Goal

To define The Chicago Community Trust’s place in the Chicago community over the next 100 years. What would be the Trust’s role in addressing regional issues? And how would they fund that role?

The Situation

As The Chicago Community Trust approached its 100th anniversary, leadership identified an opportunity to assess their past and future impact. How had the Trust made a difference in the greater Chicago area over the last 100 years? What impact could, or should, they make over the next 100 years? How would they make that impact possible?

The Trust engaged Alford Group to conduct a philanthropic market study to answer those questions. The study was designed to test donors’ predisposition to support a campaign that would significantly increase the Trust’s asset base – doubling unrestricted dollars to fund critical and emerging regional issues.

The Approach

Civic Leadership Committee

As part of the study, Alford Group assisted the Trust in creating a Civic Leadership Committee comprised of prominent civic leaders and key stakeholders to drive the study and resulting fundraising effort. A well-known community philanthropist spearheaded the effort, sharing his own time, business wisdom and wealth, and encouraging others to join. The committee met periodically to develop key messages and positioning, to identify individuals and entities within the Chicago area who should have an interest in investing in the future of the region, and to receive findings from the study.

One significant finding was an opportunity for the Trust to play a unique leadership role bringing funders and organizations together to discover how they could partner to solve key regional issues. Alford Group assisted the Trust in establishing a quarterly forum called “Impact Chicago.” At these forums, critical and emerging issues were highlighted and solutions discussed. The forums gave the Trust an opportunity to showcase the talent and expertise of their senior level program officers, who could then take a greater leadership role in their respective areas.

Market Assessment

Alford Group conducted extensive benchmarking of other prominent community foundations. Nowhere else in the country had a community foundation attempted to grow their assets through a campaign of the size and scale being considered by The Chicago Community Trust.

The Results

The assessment ultimately resulted in the decision for The Chicago Community Trust to embark on an unprecedented comprehensive campaign with a goal of $1 billion. Alford Group developed the campaign plan and worked closely with the Trust’s campaign leadership throughout the effort. Alford Group also helped to identify and develop strategies to approach potential donors and families. The campaign reached its $1 billion dollar goal two years ahead of schedule. The campaign ended with a total of more than $1.6 billion – 165% of the fundraising goal and the largest campaign in history by a community foundation. A large percentage of the total raised was new dollars (new donors or increased gifts from current donors) to the Trust. The Chicago Community Trust experienced significant increases in regular giving to Donor Advised Funds over the course of the campaign, as well as the strong responses to targeted cultivation and solicitation efforts.