loading social feeds...


Sign up to receive email updates about programs and initiatives of the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.

Learn more about how we use this data in our Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Small shift, big impact – three-year grants for Chicago arts grantees

Posted on August 8, 2018 by Ellen Placey Wadey

Gen Ops Plus LogoThe difference between two and three might seem small, but at the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, we think the difference between two and three is very important. Which is why beginning with the July 2018 grant cycle, the Foundation will move all 170 Chicago Gen Ops Plus grantees from two-year to three-year grants.

Since the launch of Gen Ops Plus in 2014, GDDF has worked with small arts organizations to build their capacity. Groups want the flexibility to direct funds where they are needed most—whether to costumes or the electric bill—which is why the Foundation awards unrestricted general operating dollars. Groups want to know that they can rely on funding from year-to-year. In 2016, GDDF began awarding two-year grants so that groups would feel more confident about their resources and could plan further ahead. In our most recent Grantee Perception Survey, organizations applauded that change, and research from national groups such as Grantmakers in the Arts confirms that multi-year support is what grantees need, so we’re now deepening that commitment to three years.

The Plus part of Gen Ops Plus offers grantees Technical Assistance Grants (TAG) and a Cash Reserve Challenge (CRC) program. TAGs reimburse organizations for sending their staff and board to professional development trainings. The CRC program teaches small arts groups about cash reserves—an important sustainability tool that helps organizations weather the irregular rhythms of cash flow, survive an unexpected challenge, or plan for new initiatives. For groups invited into the CRC program, the Foundation offers up to a $25,000 matching grant to seed or extend a cash reserve.

The Gen Ops Plus strategy—which now includes three-year grants—helps small arts organizations build and strengthen the infrastructure that they need so that they can make the creative work that they want to make. Strong arts groups making great art—that’s a win for everyone.

(Photo caption: Chicago Tap Theatre – awarded a Cash Reserve Challenge grant in 2017 – performing Spyrographe.)

Filed under Artistic Vitality, Chicago


Your decision to extend to three year grants is incredibly helpful in planning ahead especially in what may be tricky times in the next year or two.  Thank you for your foresight, dedication and trust.

— Sandy Shinner August 9, 2018

We asked and the foundation listened! A multi-year grant is an important stabilizing factor for small NFP arts organizations like ours. When seeking additional funding, multi-year commitments like GDDF help leverage matching funds from sponsors who find more confidence supporting projects that already have committed funds. Multi-year grants also help long term budgeting. They provide some assurance that minimal resources will be there when signing a lease or hiring a new employee. Thank you!

Juan Dies August 9, 2018

Thank you for understanding and helping solve the problems of small, community-based arts organizations such as Lira.  Dependability of funds is a constant worry

Also, thank you for your ongoing support of the Lira company.  Sorry that I could not join you yesterday.  I sent Warren, Lira’s managing director, because I had just returned from leading two cultural tours of Poland for fans/supporters of the company. By the way, the tours have an income stream for Lira for more than 25 years.

Lucyna Migala of the Lira Ensemble August 9, 2018

Thank you!  Not only are you generous, but you make it so easy to partner with you. 

Ellen Hargis
co-director, The Newberry Consort

Ellen Hargis August 10, 2018

This is will be helpful for strategic organization and for year to year fiscal planning.  Thank you.

Kay Kendall August 10, 2018

What is the invite protocol for the CRC Program?

kemati August 13, 2018

Thank you all for the work you do!

Kemati, you can read more about the CRC program here (including contact info): http://gddf.org/artistic-vitality/chicago/guidelines-plus

— Susan Clark August 13, 2018

Congratulations, and thank you as always for your thoughtful approach to supporting arts organizations like ours!

Melissa Ngan August 15, 2018

Leave a Comment

Commenting has expired for this entry.