Chicago Magazine: The innovators at these five upstart nonprofits are bringing out-of-the-box thinking to tough problems. And they’re getting results.
This article was featured in the November 2018 issue of Chicago Magazine. By Kim Bellware and Joel Reese. Photo by Ross Feighery.
THE PROBLEM: The do-more-with-less financial reality at many local nonprofits
THE FIX: A startup-style incubator fund
THE BACKSTORY: There’s one word that Liz Dozier wants to banish from descriptions of the nonprofit she started in 2016: charity. “What charities do is set this really unhealthy system of how you’re giving people fish,” Dozier says, alluding to the adage about teaching someone to care for themselves. Rather, she characterizes Chicago Beyond as an incubator-meets-venture-capital fund for community- and justice-focused groups that nurtures them with holistic support including professional development, guidance on strategic planning, and, most important, meaningful financial resources.
The former principal of Christian Fenger Academy High School and a star of CNN’s 2014 docuseries Chicagoland, Dozier knows the impact that deep coffers can have. At Fenger, she injected new life into one of the city’s poorly performing schools with the help of a federal grant totaling $4 million over four years. “Not that I didn’t appreciate a $500 grant,” Dozier says, “but in the grand scheme of things, that’s just a Band-Aid.”
In two years, Chicago Beyond has given $30 million raised by a small group of private donors to 13 local groups that target at-risk youth and young adults. Among them: the Dovetail Project, which provides young black fathers with life-skills training and parenting resources, and Storycatchers Theatre, a musical theater program for kids involved with the court system.
This summer, Chicago Beyond launched an 18-month fellowship for individuals whose research or projects are youth oriented and address community, justice, health, or education issues. The inaugural recipient, Nneka Tapia, the former executive director of the Cook County Department of Corrections, will focus on developing strategies for supporting the mental health needs of kids whose parents are in prison.
WHERE YOU COME IN: Volunteer your professional services (such as legal, consulting, communications) to help Chicago Beyond partners by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.