Strategic Collaborations

Why We Focus on Strategic Collaborations

We believe we can often achieve greater impact by joining forces with our colleagues in philanthropy, nonprofits and the public and private sectors. Working together gives us an opportunity to dive deeply into issues. To share and learn what’s working and what isn’t. And to attract more resources for promising solutions to long-entrenched challenges.

These are our current strategic collaborations.

Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development
Polk Bros. Foundation is a founding partner of the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development, a funder collaborative which provides grants and technical assistance to arts organizations with budgets between $50,000 and $800,000 to help them build capacity so they can meet their artistic goals.

Learn more about Arts Work Fund
Bridgespan's Leading for Impact Chicago
Polk Bros. Foundation and a coalition of other funders are partnering with The Bridgespan Group on Leading for Impact-Chicago (LFIC), a multi-year initiative targeting the senior leadership teams of strong nonprofits in metro Chicago who have the potential to increase and/or accelerate their impact in their communities. As a result of this collaboration, 50 Chicago-area nonprofit leaders – many of whom are Polk Bros. Foundation grantees – are increasing the impact and effectiveness of their organizations.

Learn more about Leading for Impact Chicago
Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE)
Polk Bros. Foundation supported the launch of Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE), a network of prominent Chicagoland anchor institutions -- hospitals, universities, government agencies, corporations, cultural organizations and more -- committed to collectively impacting neighborhood economic development by directing their purchasing, hiring and investment locally. CASE builds ties between the city’s largest institutions and neighborhood-based businesses, in turn strengthening local firms, increasing community and neighborhood vitality, and generating jobs.

Learn more about Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy
Chicago’s Plan to End Homelessness
Polk Bros. Foundation plays a leadership role in Chicago’s Continuum of Care, a membership organization comprised of homelessness service providers, people with lived experience of homelessness, government agencies and other private funders. This public-private partnership is organized to advance the goals of Chicago’s Plan 2.0: A Home for Everyone, which has three core goals of preventing homelessness whenever possible; rapidly rehousing individuals and families who become homeless; and providing wrap-around services to promote housing stability and self-sufficiency.

Learn more about Chicago’s Plan 2.0
Family and Interpersonal Resilience and Safety Transformation (FIRST) Fund
Polk Bros. Foundation joined Crown Family Philanthropies, the Michael Reese Health Trust, and other local foundations to partner with Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) and launch the Family and Interpersonal Resilience and Safety Transformation (FIRST) Fund to support innovative and collaborative solutions to domestic and intimate partner violence. Many partners who launched this Fund first collaborated to support and advise the Social IMPACT Research Center’s 2017 report “Connecting to Safety and Stability: Domestic Violence Needs Assessment of Chicago,” which unearthed some urgent challenges the sector needs to address. The FIRST Fund is a collaborative effort to support leaders of Chicago’s domestic violence services community in connecting with experts and others across sectors to identify new ways to solve these entrenched challenges.

Learn more about the FIRST Fund
Illinois Immigration Funders Collaborative
Polk Bros. Foundation is a member of the Illinois Immigration Funders Collaborative (IFC). This collaborative was originally established in 2012 to help DACA applicants ensure their eligibility and assist with applications. Today, in response to the current state of immigration policy, this collaborative combines the contributions of 21 local funders to prioritize individual legal assistance, community defense and strengthening, and capacity-building to help organizations serve clients and work together in coalitions to mobilize for change.

Learn more about the Illinois Immigration Funders Collaborative
Metropolitan Chicago Nonprofit Merger Research Project
Polk Bros. Foundation was the lead sponsor of the first study of about nonprofit mergers in the Chicago metro region and helped envision and develop its corresponding toolkit. Together, the report and toolkit can help nonprofit leaders consider different business models like mergers and strategic restructuring, and also support funders in gaining a deeper understanding of how to support successful nonprofit mergers.

Access the Metropolitan Chicago Nonprofit Merger Research Report and Toolkit
Mission Sustainability Initiative
Polk Bros. Foundation is a founding partner and current Advisory Board member of Forefront’s Mission Sustainability Initiative, which seeks to increase the capacity, effectiveness and financial health of Chicago’s nonprofit sector. This initiative was developed, in part, to address challenges identified in the Metropolitan Chicago Nonprofit Merger Research Report, also noted on this page. Polk Bros. Foundation continues to help lead the corresponding Mission Sustainability Initiative Fund, which supports nonprofits in the exploration or implementation of a long-term or permanent strategic partnerships.

Learn more about the Mission Sustainability Initiative
Polk Bros Park at Navy Pier
In July 2014, Polk Bros. Foundation announced a $20 million legacy gift to Navy Pier, made in recognition of the legendary role that the Polk family and the Polk Bros stores played in the lives of Chicagoans. Since that time, the Foundation and Navy Pier have collaborated closely on the Pier’s transformation into a space where Chicagoans from every neighborhood – and visitors from around the globe – can engage with Chicago’s dynamic art and culture. Known as Navy Pier’s green front door, the 13-acre Polk Bros Park includes Polk Bros Fountain and Plaza and the Polk Bros Performance Lawns and features free arts and culture programming for Chicago families and visitors to enjoy for years to come.

Learn more about Polk Bros. Foundation’s collaboration with Navy Pier
Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities
Polk Bros. Foundation helped establish the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a coalition of more than 30 Chicago funders committed to supporting proven and promising approaches to reducing gun violence in Chicago. The Partnership organized to respond with urgency to Chicago's gun violence crisis and to align funding around four strategies: street outreach, support services and jobs; police reform and community relations; gun policy; and community safety and peace.

Learn more about Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities
Point the Way
As a member of Forefront’s Capacity Building Funders Group, Polk Bros. Foundation supports and is active in the Point the Way project which aims to strengthen capacity building resources for Chicagoland nonprofits. A landscape analysis conducted as the first phase of Point the Way helped lay the groundwork for ongoing efforts to revitalize the capacity-building sector in the Chicago area.

Learn more about Point the Way
Thrive Chicago
Polk Bros. Foundation supports and is active in Thrive Chicago, a coalition helping to organize the ecosystem of youth-serving organizations and drive collective action to make systemic changes for Chicago’s youth.

Learn more about Thrive Chicago
Workforce Funders Alliance
Polk Bros. Foundation is part of the Workforce Funders Alliance, a collaborative whose mission is to facilitate partnerships with employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment and earnings for underprepared workers in the Chicago region.

Learn more about Workforce Funders Alliance

Learn How to Apply

Explore our Current Grantmaking