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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 to answer these questions – and get the Trust to their $1 billion goal over 2 years early in their campaign.


As The Chicago Community Trust (CCT) 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 CCT’s asset base – doubling unrestricted dollars to fund critical and emerging regional issues.

As part of their assessment, The Alford Group assisted CCT 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 CCT in establishing a quarterly forum called “Impact Chicago.” At these forums, critical and emerging issues were highlighted and solutions discussed. The forums gave CCT 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.

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 CCT.

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 CCT’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. With two years remaining, CCT has found great success and has already exceeded the $1 billion goal! A large percentage of the total raised is new dollars to CCT (new donors or increased gifts from current donors). Importantly, The 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.