Community Impact of State Cuts Dire: Illinois Philanthropy Says NO to Filling State Budget Hole

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"Foundations are in the business of identifying critical needs -- and the programs and organizations that make a real difference in addressing those needs. If we simply shift our funding to fill the state’s budget gap, we create a different gap where we’ve already been funding,” said Gillian Darlow, CEO of Polk Bros. Foundation.

Donors Forum and Illinois Foundation executives held a press conference on May 19 to draw a firm boundary around the extent to which Illinois government can expect private philanthropy to fill the large state budget hole, by now projected to be $6.6 billion.
 
Foundation leaders said those looking to philanthropy for a magic bullet to make the budget hole go away would have to look in other directions.
 
Several Donors Forum Members participated (pictured): Gillian Darlow, CEO, Polk Bros. Foundation; Donald A. Cooke, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy, Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Donors Forum Board Chair; Emily Dreke, Director of Development and Communications, Chicago Foundation for Women; Grace Hou, President, Wood Fund Chicago; Regina McGraw, Executive Director, Wieboldt Foundation; Unmi Song, President, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; and Robert Vaughan, Executive Director, Dunham Fund.
 
Illinois foundation executives and leaders have supported charitable organizations to the tune of $3.1 billion, according to Donors Forum’s most recent data. There are over five thousand grant making organizations in the state of Illinois.
 
“While that is an important investment in Illinois, foundation dollars are dwarfed compared to the scale and size of public dollars,” said Gillian Darlow, CEO of the Polk Bros. Foundation in Chicago. “In 2013, foundation investment equaled just a tenth of the state’s general fund.”
 
Darlow said that even if every dollar of foundation giving was reallocated to replace government funding, those funds would cover less than half of the $6.6 billion gap in the FY 2016 state budget.
 
“We can’t fill the gap,” Darlow said.  “Moreover, foundation dollars are already committed.  As foundations, we are in the business of identifying critical needs -- and the programs and organizations that make a real difference in addressing those needs. If we simply shift our funding to fill the state’s budget gap, we create a different gap where we’ve already been funding.”
 
Other foundation leaders agreed that philanthropic investments could not meet rising needs alone.
 
“Philanthropic organizations such as Chicago Foundation for Women have been investing in improving the lives of women and families for a long time,” said Emily Dreke, Director of Development and Communications, Chicago Foundation for Women. “Our efforts alone will not succeed in making sustainable, systemic advancements. We need the leadership of our public partners.”
 
As members of Donors Forum, the regional association that represents the interests of foundations and nonprofits across the state, foundation leaders expressed concern that such a large gap in funding would damage the long-term commitments philanthropy has made to low-income communities and families.
 
“As a foundation that focuses on education, homelessness, workforce development, health, domestic abuse, literacy, and public safety, we are concerned about the well-being of the nonprofit sector that is so vital to so many,” said Don Cooke, Donors Forum Board Chair and Senior Vice President of Philanthropy at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “We will do our best to help, but the impact will be even more dire as the starvation diet, begun in 2008, continues for years to come.”
 
Illinois philanthropy is a vital part of the state’s charitable engine. According to data collected by Donors Forum and the Foundation Center, health, education, and human services are areas that receive the most funding from area foundations.
 
“These government cuts seriously undermine community resilience,” Grace Hou, President of the Woods Fund Chicago said. “They will directly affect thousands of working families and their children, seniors, veterans and others—forcing them to make even more difficult decisions about how to make ends meet.”
 
“Over two hundred organizations signed our letter calling for a fair, adequate, and responsible budget,” said Delia Coleman, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Donors Forum. “Now is the time. In order for the sector to keep doing the good work the people of Illinois rely on, the state budget must include revenue.”
 
For more information or press inquiries, contact Delia Coleman at 312-327-8946 or dcoleman@donorsforum.org.