Forefront 101

Organizations like Forefront can sometimes be difficult to understand. Words that are often used to describe our work — like “sector” and “ecosystem” and “capacity building” — can be somewhat fuzzy. So let us help you better understand the critical work of Forefront by giving you some context and sharing one of our favorite analogies:

Thousands of nonprofits, foundations, and civic leaders span the entire state of Illinois leading critical work on behalf of their communities. Each focuses on core missions such as educating children, feeding the hungry, and healing our environment. Collectively, we work for a greater cause which is to build a more equitable and thriving society for everyone in Illinois.

Too often, however, they work in an environment that lacks resources and presents obstructing policies and practices. Too often, these vital nonprofits and foundations work in isolation, which means they’re unable to leverage their resources for maximum impact.

That’s why Forefront exists – to build a healthy ecosystem. It might be easier to think of that ecosystem, that landscape, as a giant pool.

Nonprofits and foundations are swimming in this giant pool, but it’s a pool filled with choppy and polluted water as these wonderful organizations are flailing along in their lanes trying to go as far and as fast as they can independently of each other.

Now, imagine how much farther, faster, and stronger the nonprofits and foundations could swim in a pool of water that is clear and clean. Imagine the impact these organizations could have if they collaboratively leveraged adequate financial resources, skilled and trained colleagues, and favorable policies.

Forefront focuses on the water. We create a pool of H20 that’s clear, clean, and invigorating so these thousands of organizations can swim strong and far; so they may achieve their maximum potential. do their best work; so they can build a more equitable, thriving society.

Put another way, our mission is to create a vibrant social impact sector for everyone in Illinois.

Forefront’s nonprofit Members – the earnest, diligent folks in your community – work in countless fields and communities across Illinois. Our grantmaking Members include private foundations, such as family and independent foundations, public charities, corporations, donor-advised funds, charitable trusts and individual philanthropists. We also engage social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and B-Corps to spur innovation in the sector.

We have four key strategies to help create that clean water – the vibrant social impact sector and thriving ecosystem:

Strategy #1: Increase Investment to the Sector

Nonprofit organizations and public foundations need adequate funds to fulfill their missions and serve communities. Private foundations and the public sector need additional and diverse funding partners to further leverage limited resources while scaling impact. Forefront advocates for additional private and public investments into the social impact sector, and creates initiatives that increase charitable giving and impact investing.

Strategy #2: Develop Top Talent

The social impact sector is trying to solve some of the most stubborn challenges out there. Now more than ever, it needs knowledgeable, passionate, and agile professionals. To meet this unprecedented demand for leading talent, Forefront offers best-in-class professional development training. Our unique curriculum will continue to be affordable, accessible, inclusive, and comprehensive. Our Library will continue to be a leading center of research and best practices.

Strategy 3#: Promote Collective Action and Strategic Partnerships

Too many organizations are working in isolation without access to resources that promote collaboration, cultivate partnerships, and scale impact. Forefront is go-to hub to help fulfill our stakeholders’ needs for strategic and collaborative partnerships plus collective impact.

Strategy #4: Improve Systems and Policies

Strong and effective social impact organizations thrive where they are valued and supported. Forefront removes barriers, increases efficiencies, and fosters innovation to create favorable practices, processes and policies critical to the work these organizations do. We also promote civic engagement for our sector and our diverse stakeholders.

Together, our efforts help educate children, shelter the homeless, enrich the arts and address a host of other critical issues to create healthier and more vibrant communities across our great state.

As you can imagine, collaboration, policy change and education can take years to bear fruit. We know that lasting change will happen only if we all work in partnership over the long haul. We’re going to be here.

And, we’re committed to leveraging our vast nonprofit and foundation networks across the state; to make that pool clear, clean, and invigorating. Please explore this site to see how Forefront is making the water cleaner for you, and to reach out if you want to continue the conversation.

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