Anniversary Event Focuses on Moving Forward from a Position of Strength

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"We are the new Donors Forum. Let’s take action. Let’s work collectively. Let’s create the world we all seek.”

That was part of the call to action issued by Donors Forum’s President and CEO Eric Weinheimer at the third and final event celebrating Donors Forum’s 40th anniversary. The event, The Next 40 Years: Moving Forward from a Position of Strength, took place Thurs., Nov. 20 at The Field Museum. 

> View videos of the event on YouTube.

View photos of the event and reception on Flickr.

> View photos of attendees at the reception with Sue, the T-rex on Facebook or Flickr.

Donors Forum unveiled five strategic initiatives that the organization will be moving forward on. The initiatives were presented by representatives of a range of organizations and were introduced by Grace Hou, President of the Woods Fund and a Donors Forum Board Member. The initiatives are:
  • Supporting full-cost funding for social impact organizations (presented by Unmi Song, President, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; David McConnell, CFO, One Hope United; and Evette Cardona, Vice President of Programs, Polk Bros. Foundation and a Donors Forum Board Member);
  • Promoting diversity in philanthropy and using the full range of philanthropic assets to democratize capital and expand opportunities (presented by Shelley Davis, Vice President of the Albert Pick Jr. Fund and Executive Director, Forest Preserve Foundation; Nan Silva, Senior Program Officer, Community Memorial Foundation; and Graham Grady, Trustee, African American Legacy Fund);
  • Increasing individual giving (presented by Clark McCain, Senior Program Officer, The Coleman Foundation; Nicholas Gauna, Campaign Organizer, Groupon; and Matt Chicola, Advancement Manager, Loaves and Fishes Community Services);
  • Developing measures of social return on investment in youth development, arts and culture, and the environment, with more measures to follow (presented by Ra Joy, Executive Director, Illinois Arts Alliance; Evelyn Diaz, Commissioner, DFFS and a Donors Forum Board Member; and Ayoka Samuels, Senior Program Director, Gary Comer Youth Center); and
  • Protecting the state budget to support nonprofit missions (presented by K. Sujata, President and CEO, Chicago Foundation for Women and Donors Forum Board Member; John Petter, President and CEO, AIDS Foundation of Chicago; and Donald A. Cooke, Senior Vice President, Philanthropy, Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Donors Forum Board Chair).
Steven McCollough, Vice President, Community Partnerships at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, provided comments on getting engaged in these initiatives.
Mr. Weinheimer, who became President and CEO of Donors Forum on July 1, spoke on how the “nonprofit sector” is the only sector defined by its tax status, and that label does not convey the breadth of activities organizations undertake or the impact they have. He encouraged the audience to leave outdated notions of “nonprofit” behind. “We are living in a world that is dramatically changing from ‘nonprofit’ to ‘social impact’, from ‘charity’ to ‘causes’, from ‘donations’ to ‘investments’.”  Mr. Weinheimer asked that we all reimagine a sector that is bold and operating from a position of strength, adding, “It’s an exciting time, but only if we face our challenges and pursue opportunities with a clear understanding of our tremendous value to a civil society and a thriving economy.”
To capture the new shape of philanthropy and community work, Mr. Weinheimer used the phrase “social impact sector,” which captures all the groups and individuals who have a commitment to building a better world, including grantmaking organizations, public service organizations, arts groups, social impact investors, social entrepreneurs, and more.
Wegi Stewart, President of The Community Foundation of Macon County and a Donors Forum Board Member, shared some of her personal experiences in the social impact sector and reasons for her commitment to it. She emphasized the importance of working with a broad range of people to develop collective impact on pressing issues. “I am fortunate to have a job where I can help solve my community’s problems and meet with people invested in helping their community,” she said.
Donald A. Cooke, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Donors Forum Board Chair, thanked the organizers of the 40th anniversary activities, especially committee co-chairs Merri Ex, President and CEO of Family Focus, Inc. and Ernest Vasseur, Executive Director of the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County, for all they did to make the year memorable. He also emphasized the importance of collective action and underscored the event’s focus on moving forward. 
Mr. Weinheimer was specific in the actions he asked Members to take. “Our 'ask' for you is to get engaged, attend gatherings, attend classes, help in advocacy, play an additive role, play a leadership role, give ideas and hard work.” He promised that Donors Forum would be there to offer the services and support needed to move forward on the identified strategic initiatives and to help Members fulfill their missions of developing stronger communities and a better world.
The event was also a celebration of the work of Donors Forum’s Members and everything they have accomplished in the past four decades. Chicago Dance Crash performed as part of the program. The ChiArts Honors Jazz Combo from The Chicago High School for the Arts provided music before the program and during the reception. Mr. Weinheimer noted that groups like these serve as inspiration and a reminder of reasons people work in the social impact sector.
A reception in Stanley Field Hall rounded out the evening, where attendees shared the space -- and had their photo taken -- with Sue, the T-rex.

Event Sponsors



Crown Family Philanthropies
Mondelez International

Steans Family Foundation

Bank of America
Baxter International Inc.
Crowe Horwath LLP
The Joyce Foundation
Kraft Foods Group Foundation
Jim and Kay Mabie
Prince Charitable Trusts
Wieboldt Foundation

The Owens Foundation

See all 40th Anniversary supporters here.