2 Years and counting: The Field Foundation’s equity journey

Illinois grantmaker shares inspiring stories of progress towards equity 2 years into its new funding strategy.

Written by: Lisa Ranghelli

Date: January 10, 2019

“At the heart of our work have been these central questions: Is racial equity in philanthropy even possible? Can the fallacy of philanthropic expertise fall away to create room for the nonprofit visionary to lead? In a city of such exquisite design – from bold architecture to systemic racism – can we ask more of ourselves in philanthropy, listen more, talk less, focus on areas that have been disinvested in and lift the powerful organizations that have grown in spite of… that disinvestment?”

 — Angelique Power, President, The Field Foundation of Illinois, 2017-18 Biennial Report

When Angelique Power became CEO of The Field Foundation of Illinois more than 2 years ago, she helped the institution embark on a new path, to change “how we fund, who we fund, how we measure our work and our worth.” The foundation pledged to direct:

  • At least 50% of funding to organizations on the South and West sides of Chicago.
  • At least 60% of funding to organizations led by African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American (ALAANA) constituencies.

Through its Justice and Leadership Investment portfolios, the foundation funds community organizing and advocacy among these constituencies, helping historically under-resourced neighborhoods exert power to reshape the systems that perpetuate inequity.

Field’s biennial report captures some of the stories of impact emerging from these investments, affording a birds-eye view of power-building grantmaking in practice:

  • Arise Chicago has helped exploited low-wage workers become leaders and successfully fight for better workplace conditions and benefits.
  • The Chicago Community Bond Fund has made progress toward reducing and eliminating money bonds, which force individuals without wealth – who are presumed innocent – to spend long periods in jail while awaiting trial.
  • The Crusher’s Club and Youth Organizing Project have each engaged youth of color and helped cultivate their leadership skills, enabling them to have access to better opportunities and outcomes in the future.

Lisa Ranghelli (@lisa_rang) is NCRP’s senior director of assessment and special projects.