The Chicago Community Trust wanted to define its place in the Chicago community over its next 100 years. What would be the Trust’s role in addressing regional issues? And how would they fund that role? The Alford Group helped answer these questions – and helped the Trust surpass their fundraising goal, raising $1.65 billion.


Envisioning Future Impact

As The Chicago Community Trust (the Trust) approached their 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 The Alford Group to conduct a philanthropic market assessment to answer those questions. The assessment 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.

Civic Leadership Committee

As part of their assessment, The Alford Group assisted the Trust in creating a Civic Leadership Committee comprised of prominent civic leaders and key stakeholders to drive the assessment 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 assessment.

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. The 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

The 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. The Alford Group developed the campaign plan and has worked closely with the Trust’s campaign manager throughout the effort. The Alford Group has also helped to identify and develop strategies for approaching individual donors and solicitations. The key pillar of the campaign has been honoring the giver – honoring philanthropists for their investment in the future of the region. 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 is new dollars to the Trust (new donors or increased gifts from current donors). Importantly, The Chicago Community Trust has experienced significant increases in annual giving over the course of the campaign, as well as the strong responses to targeted cultivation and solicitation efforts.