Community Progress Makers: Support that Fuels Impact and Transformative Change
By Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Citizenship, Citi April 18, 2017 04:00 PM
Community-based organizations have been at the forefront of transforming cities, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, acting as both spring boards to economic opportunity and critical safety nets for low-income people and communities. However, to accelerate the pace of transformative impact in our cities, these change-agents need more than financial support for specific programs. They need funders to back them in a way that allows them to amplify their influence and voice, evolve to adapt to shifting external trends, and develop new ways of addressing long-term societal challenges. It was this need that drove the Citi Foundation to launch the Community Progress Makers Fund in 2015, providing multi-year, core operating support to nonprofits in six U.S. cities.
In New York City, Green City Force provides training and leadership opportunities to youth interested in finding careers in the green energy economy.
When we surveyed our grantees and asked what they needed more of, core operating support ranked close to the top of their list. Unrestricted funding has allowed these experienced leaders to allocate our grant support in ways that best scale their work, while driving the organization in a direction to achieve exponentially greater operating success. At the Citi Foundation, we carefully track how our investment is helping strengthen the organization as a whole while evolving new ways of addressing social and economic change.
The Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation (GECDC), for example, is bringing retail services and jobs to Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Through GECDC’s Englewood Exchange, a hub for small businesses to sell products and access an upcoming commercial kitchen, local micro-enterprises will be able to pursue new coaching and partnership opportunities. With support from the Community Progress Makers Fund, GECDC is helping entrepreneurs get their foot in the door at major retailers—entrepreneurs like one Chicago-based sausage-maker, whose product is now sold in over 60 locations of a national natural food supermarket chain.
Over the years we have discovered that just writing a check is never enough, since it rarely if ever sparks the transformative results that get to the root cause of the problem. That’s why the Community Progress Makers Fund also offers grantees access to leading national experts and opportunities to learn from each other. Recently, Community Progress Makers gathered in Chicago to share best practices around data collection, discuss strategies to build coalitions, and even get creative with improvisational ways to explore design thinking that they can apply to their programs.
Enterprise Community Partners Mid-Atlantic is making sure low-income residents remain a vital part of their communities, even as neighborhoods in the DC area change and rents rise.
Since undertaking this new approach, it’s become increasingly clear that together with our partners we are on an exciting journey with Community Progress Makers—from the relationships formed through our learning communities to the impact we make when funders and nonprofits work together to support our cities, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.
To learn more about the Community Progress Makers Fund, visit citifoundation.com and follow #ProgressMakers in social media.