PFF sunsetting plans announced

After 15 years as an integral part of Chicago’s philanthropic community, the Pierce Family Foundation will be sunsetting at the end of 2023, as part of a planned transition that was first announced at the end of last year. Trustees Denis and Martha Pierce will remain active as individual supporters of select nonprofits, but final grants from the Foundation will be made by the end of 2023 to long-time grantees and agencies the Foundation has been instrumental in assisting.

The Pierce Family Foundation has been a prominent voice in the push for greater investment in and innovation around capacity building and operational support for nonprofit organizations. In addition to being a key incubator of a wide variety of sector-wide initiatives, the Foundation’s support for its own core grantee agencies has included a broad menu of programs and services beyond grant dollars including: ongoing consulting on IT needs; specialists available to assist with customized organizational development; Top Talent Institute, a leadership training program; stipends for professional development; and advice and moral support through the ups-and-downs over the months (or years) required to get a new agency or program off the ground.

A strong believer in multi-year general operating grants and the need to be realistic about the true costs of running a nonprofit, Pierce Family Foundation provided the support needed so that grantees could take key steps as varied as upgrading an IT network, addressing an array of HR issues, choosing a new donor base software management system, strategic planning, and more. The Foundation has also provided extra support to grantee partners experiencing a crisis, be it fire, server meltdown, boiler explosion, outdated bus, or other circumstances. Special initiatives developed at the Foundation include the Peer Skill Share program now housed at Forefront and the Chicago Youth Storage Initiative supporting young people experiencing homelessness.

For numerous organizations, the Foundation has served as an important partner at moments of growth, transition, experimentation, or transformation. For example, the Foundation helped La Casa Norte to open its new facility, which includes 25 apartments collectively known as Pierce House; acted as a founding donor for new agencies such as the National Public Housing Museum and LYTE Collective; and helped launch AMPT: Advancing Nonprofits in 2019 to address capacity building needs of small, BIPOC-led nonprofits on Chicago’s West and South sides.

Following through on its belief in building capacity via collaboration, the Foundation created a partnership in 2019 with Cuore e Mani Foundation, sharing staff as a method to build expertise, ease application and reporting burdens for grantees, and free up resources for more grant making. Cuore e Mani will continue its grantmaking in the years ahead.

Staff members Laura Jansen, David Krumlauf and Pam Stillwell remain on staff through the end of 2023.

PFF noted in Chronicle of Philanthropy article

Pierce Family Foundation was lauded for its support of nonprofits’ technology needs in an editorial by Chantal Forster, Executive Director of Technology Association of Grantmakers, that appeared in The Chronicle of Philanthropy on January 31, 2022.

In “Grantmakers Should Stop Resisting Nonprofits’ Pleas for Increased Technology Funding,” Foster argues that both better communication within and more collaboration among foundations are necessary to give nonprofits what they need. On the former, she says program officers don’t consultant with their own IT staff to stay abreast of what is needed in this area of infrastructure. But, she notes:

Changing this dynamic is certainly possible, as a handful of innovative philanthropic efforts demonstrate. The Pierce Family Foundation, for instance, has made technology investment for grantees a priority since its founding in 2007. The foundation’s chief technologist, David Krumlauf, works directly with grantees to understand their tech needs, often starting with interviews and an inventory of current technology before helping to develop a plan and budget for upgrading their digital systems. In addition to providing grantees funding for these projects, the foundation offers training on tech tool usage and cybersecurity.

Heather Parish named Field Catalyst

The Center for Community Investment (CCI) at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is proud to announce the selection of the inaugural cohort of its Field Catalyst program. Among those chosen is Pierce Family Foundation Co-Executive Director Heather Parish.

These 13 leaders from across the United States are established practitioners in community investment and development, racial justice, and adaptive leadership. Over the next year, they’ll partner with CCI and work together to explore how they can help transform the practice of community investment in the U.S. to leverage existing local resources and drive systemic change anchored in racial justice. To learn more about the program and its inaugural cohort, visit

PFF mentioned in Inside Philanthropy

Inside Philanthropy published an article highlighting the problems that nonprofits have with IT, particularly acute during the pandemic. The article profiled Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG), and their important work in both providing nonprofits with IT resources and encouraging more foundations to support IT needs. Pierce Family Foundation was mentioned as a funder who is “doing this right.” Subscribers to Inside Philanthropy can read the article here.

PFF on Fund the People podcast

Pierce Family Foundation Co-Executive Director Heather Parish recently appeared on Fund the People, a podcast with Rusty Stahl. She is joined by Lisa May Simpson of Forefront, and the two discuss the importance of knowledge sharing in the nonprofit sector. Give it a listen!

Co-ED joins other Black philanthropic leaders in open letter

Co-Executive Director Heather Parish joined other Black philanthropic leaders in an open letter published in Crain’s Chicago Business, How to achieve the just treatment of Blacks – and all people of color. “The 21st-century activists who lead peaceful protests in our city and around the world represent the full spectrum of race, class and gender identity. They have boldly shouted in unison that Black. Lives. Matter,” the letter notes and emphasizes, “Chicago’s civic and philanthropic communities also need to embrace this moment with bold leadership and action.” The letter’s signers advocate multiple avenues for civic and philanthropic leaders to take in order to advance equity in Black and other communities of color. Download the full article here. Listen to Chicago Foundation for Women President Felicia Davis discuss the letter on WBEZ.

PFF Participates in National Day of Racial Healing

The Pierce Family Foundation hosted a Racial Healing Circle for grantees on Tuesday, January 21 as part of the National Day of Racial Healing. More than 40 such circles were held during the week at agencies all over Chicago. At PFF’s circle, more than one dozen representatives from our grantees took part and offered a number of personal learnings and/or “aha” moments. The circle was hosted by trained facilitators from Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Chicago.

Co-ED appears on national panel

The National Center for Family Philanthropy held its annual Forum on Family Philanthropy in Chicago in October 2019. Pierce Family Foundation Co-Executive Director Heather Parish was a featured speaker at the plenary session, “Everything Old is New Again: Gen Op, Capacity Building, and Multi-Year Grants.” The session argued for a strong investment in nonprofit’s personnel, strategic plans, technology, and other items that have long been seen as surperfluous, rather than essential. Family foundations are pushing the mindset on this issue nationally, and Heather spoke about PFF’s contribution to this important work.