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

The 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.

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