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also provided extra support to grantee partners experiencing a crisis, be it fire, server meltdown, boiler explosion, outdated bus, or other circumstances.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.