The People's Endowment For Big Change

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Executive Director, Jeanne Kracher reports on the success of the Big Change Endowment campaign at annual benefit Seeds of Change.

At Seeds of Change in April, Executive Director Jeanne Kracher led those gathered in the theater in a rousing calland-response to convey Crossroads Fund’s basic mission: We raise money! And we give it out! Since Crossroads Fund’s beginnings in 1981, the core of our work has been just that. Each year we raise funds from people and then turn it over, strategically, to grassroots groups who are fighting for racial, social, and economic justice in and around Chicago. For more than 25 years, our grantmaking worked more or less this way—each year we raised the entirety of our budget from a dedicated network of donors and in short order distributed it to social justice groups through our participatory community grantmaking process.Today, Crossroads Fund still operates largely according to this model.

This began to change for the first time in 2007 when Crossroads Fund received the assets of the Synapses Foundation, which was established by the estate of activist and Chicago Public Schools teacher Donald F. Erickson. This historic gift continues to provide investment income to Crossroads Fund for grantmaking each year, and perhaps more importantly, taught us how an endowment can augment and provide stability for our work. In 2013, Crossroads Fund’s board of directors voted to embark on a five-year campaign to raise $2 million dollars in cash for a general endowment—the Big Change Fund—to deepen our commitment to social justice. The Big Change campaign is comprised of the general endowment, the Lisa Fittko Internship Fund, which endows our internship program in memory of the anti-Nazi resistance hero and social justice activist, as well as the Lynda J. Tipton Memorial Award for Social Justice, which honors a grantee organization each year at our Seeds of Change benefit.

Compared to the staggering size of some endowments in Chicago, our aspirations may seem modest. However, for Crossroads Fund and for the grassroots groups we partner with, the Big Change Fund will meaningfully affect the way we go about powering local movements for social change. Endowment income will allow Crossroads Fund to offer multi-year grants for the first time, guaranteeing our grantees stability that enables them to focus limited resources on mission-related work. One thing many of our partners consistently request are additional opportunities to collaborate with others within and across issue areas. The Big Change Fund will enable Crossroads Fund to organize strategic convenings for grantees, as well as to provide increased technical assistance funding for this type of work. An endowment will also allow Crossroads Fund to continue to respond quickly and even more effectively to urgent needs with critical response funding. Current Critical Response Fund recipients include our immigrant rights partners who are fighting the adminstration’s hateful tactics.

We have been humbled by the community’s outpouring of support for the Big Change Fund. Comprised of gifts big and small, more than 160 donors have already joined to contribute $2.2 million dollars, exceeding our original goal of $2 million. To our donor partners in the Big Change Fund, we offer our deepest gratitude for your vision for a better future and your confidence in our work. It truly is “The People’s Endowment,” and in that spirit we continue to invite Crossroads Fund’s community of supporters and friends to join our effort.

The Big Change Fund is now a permanent part of our work, and even broader participation only increases our power to help propel local social movements forward. Please join us with a one-time or multi-year pledge to the Big Change Fund endowment, or consider leaving a legacy for social change through a planned gift as a Crossroads Fund Visionary.

Big Change can lead to big victories, so become a part of it.