There’s never been a better time to employ trust-based philanthropy practices. The effects of COVID-19 are long-lasting and far-reaching, and for the good of our industry, we hope to see a tectonic shift in philanthropy practices and approaches. The public outcry to further support grantees during this difficult time is reaching a crescendo, and that’s why we’re so proud to feature the following story:
The Chicago Community Trust, is a 105-year-old community foundation serving the Chicago region. The Trust was established to provide donors with a way to meet the needs of the community, whatever they might be – which during COVID-19 has consisted of providing emergency supplies and relief to residents and funding boots-on-the-ground community-based organizations. But beyond those critical lifelines of immediate support, the Trust team is also taking time to assess its funder approach and offer grantees new methods for sharing impact and updates they believe will ultimately help them garner more donations and foster a deeper sense of community among grantees.
Turning Fluxx Grantseeker on its Head
With measurable impact being paramount to any grantee story, Jennifer Axelrod, The Trust’s Senior Director of Learning and Impact decided to leverage Fluxx Grantseeker to build a new kind of grantee impact wall. Grantseeker is Fluxx’s all-in-one grants management system for nonprofits. It’s easy-to-use UI and advanced capabilities allow nonprofits to discover new funding opportunities, track payments and deadlines, organize grants and funder information, and share work and impact updates.
For her purposes, Axelrod decided to use the platform to efficiently track the entire grant recipient base for the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund–established by the Trust in partnership with the United Way of Metro Chicago–much like a Fluxx Grantmaker account would operate. But rather than request all grantees create their own Grantseeker accounts – therefore spreading their stories across countless impact walls – Axelrod created a single account for the Response Fund. She then shared the account credentials with all of the Fund’s grant recipients and asked them to use the platform to post real-time impact updates and stories to create updates that are shared with donors, media and the community.
Two impact walls were created; one for the grant recipients in Chicago, and one for the Illinois fund that spans the state of Illinois. Each one of the Illinois fund’s grant recipients works with several other organizations, meaning that this impact wall collectively points to more than 1,000 organizations across the state. Grant recipients are not told what to post, but rather are asked to share what matters most to them. They are asked to post once a week for the duration of their grant but posting is not required. The stories soon flooded in.
Fostering Connection in a Time of Crisis
“We’re seeing stories come in that we otherwise never would have heard about or had a chance to capture. It’s enabled us to notice some interesting parallels between what’s happening in Chicago and what’s happening in Illinois overall. Grantees are reporting shared experiences across our State during COVID-19,” said Axelrod.
These real-time impact updates also allow grant recipients to read about and learn from one another’s work. Meanwhile, the Trust’s Executive Committee and key donors have been reading the notes shared on the impact wall as well.
“Our Executive Committee loves this wall and so do our donors. The Grantseeker impact wall has created this connective tissue that’s bringing our community together and keeping us inspired. It’s really powerful,” said Axelrod.
At this time the Chicago impact wall has more than 737 posts, while the Illinois fund has more than 147. Staff at the Response Funds have leveraged the posts for news releases, impact sheets, social media, and to supplement media outreach. Axelrod hopes these stories continue to be featured in the local news, as well as used by grantee partners to support their own communication and messaging.
The Chicago and Illinois Community COVID-19 Response Fund impact walls have shown that putting trust in grant recipients to share the stories they want to share, rather than what’s required in a report, benefits not only the grantee, but the greater community of funders, donors, and citizens. “Our mission as a community foundation has never been more important. As we continue into this year we aim to be nimble and responsive to our grantees,” Axelrod said.