ARTS AND CULTURE

Chicago Community Trust, Driehaus Foundation Initiatives Create "Synergistic Effect" on Organizational Growth

July, 2019

The Driehaus Foundation, along with its peers, recognizes the importance of the artistic work that is being developed and presented in Chicago.  Especially for small arts organizations, building management capacity is critical to fulfilling the mission. In addition to general operating grants, Driehaus offers Professional Development Grants and a Capacity-Building Initiative to encourage effective management practices.

Through its SMART Growth program, The Chicago Community Trust offers a different, but complementary, model of support. SMART Growth is a four-year program that begins with an assessment of management practices by a consultant from the Arts & Business Council. This assessment defines an organization’s development in key management functions. For each of the following three years, the Trust provides grant support in areas identified as needing additional resources for balanced growth. 

In selecting organizations to fund for capacity-building efforts, both Driehaus and the Trust consider staffing, board governance, finances, planning, and audiences served. In-person interviews with the executive director and/or board chair are also required. Chicago Community Trust program officer Sandra Aponte uses the interview as an opportunity to understand the capacity needs of the organization and learn about how the organization plans to address these needs.

Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) is a recipient of both Driehaus and Trust grants. Olivia Junell, Director of Community Interaction, says that general operating funds from Driehaus are “mission level support.”

ESS is using SMART Growth to increase the capacity of the staff and board: “Adequately supporting the people who do the work—staff and board—is essential to achieving anything else at an organization.” ESS supplements these grants with Driehaus professional development funding to send staff to conferences.

“These grants facilitate a rare and important opportunity for staff from small arts organizations to step outside of their daily activities and think about their goals and approach in a new context. These grants exponentially expand the resources a small arts organization has access to, not only through the learning opportunities, but also by allowing staff to be an active part of a network of people working in this field, whom we can call upon for advice and feedback throughout the year,” says Junell.

Chicago Tap Theater (CTT) also receives grants from both funders. Artistic Director Mark Yonally notes that the flexibility of general operating grants allows CTT to offer free programming and to take artistic risks. CCT also participates in the Driehaus’s Individual Donor Fundraising Initiative, which provides guidance on expanding individual giving efforts as well as opportunities to learn from peers.

These Driehaus funds to support programming and fundraising are complemented and amplified with the Trust grant. CTT is using SMART Growth funding to address its need for an annual marketing strategy. CTT will hire a part-time Marketing Director to create a roadmap, with extra attention paid to more of a year-round schedule and national brand.

“If an organization is lucky enough to receive both SMART Growth and Driehaus funding, it will notice a synergistic effect," Yonally says, "which can help determine the best ways to distribute all revenue and funding to generate maximum impact.”

Photo: Driehaus Foundation grantees participate in the Individual Donor Fundraising Initiative to build their fundraising skills. (Credit: Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt)

Recent News & Articles