2023 was a fruitful year for The Reva and David Logan Foundation (RDLF). Our small and mighty team awarded over $9 million in grants to 83 organizations; donated almost $2 million in in-kind goods to 70 nonprofit partners; rescued almost 127,000 pounds of food from corporate partners and redistributed it all to those in need; and invested in two more properties to provide organizations with physical space, which was critical for their missions. (Read the complete details here.)
But it’s not all about us. Our grantees and partners are excelling at creating lasting change, and we are constantly inspired by the work they do. While we’d love to list every accomplishment and memorable moment, the following is a brief recap of the team’s highlights for 2023.
Our arts grantees are challenging prevalent norms throughout the nonprofit sector by prioritizing equitable wages and expanding access to the arts. South Chicago Dance Theater began providing health insurance for their dancers—something we hope becomes less rare for performing artists across the industry. Roman Susan Art Foundation and Red Line Service joined our grantee 3Arts in becoming W.A.G.E. certified. Chicago Dancemakers Forum piloted their DanceChance program, which provides the lowest barrier to entry for independent dancers to be paid for their creative process. And for the first time in their five-year history, OTV expanded their fellowship internationally in their mission to prioritize intersectional writers, directors, and producers from marginalized communities.
In addition, we were pleased to see Deeply Rooted Dance Theater get their well-deserved flowers. When we met with their leadership in the spring of 2023, we knew that they deserved much more recognition than they had been getting in the years before. We invited them to apply for a five-year grant because we wanted to tangibly demonstrate our trust in them. By the end of 2023, they began providing health insurance and retirement plans to their employees, raised over $14 million toward their capital campaign, and received overwhelmingly positive recognition in the news (see Crain’s Chicago Business, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader for just a few examples). Their productions match up to their stellar leadership. Program Officer Jessica Jones-Lewis went to see their November performance and was deeply moved by the skill, expression, and storytelling of their pieces.
Within our social justice portfolio are a wide array of organizations providing direct service in areas such as housing, education, food security, community health, and more. When we meet with many of these grantees, their clients are often eager to give testimonies about how their lives have been changed for the better. In 2023, we saw our grantees’ impact reach even farther. Sista Afya was able to build administrative capacity with RDLF funding, which allowed them to provide mental health services to more women than ever before. Youth Crossroads was able to support an additional community counselor, allowing them to serve students outside of schools and their families. RDLF’s thought partnership played an important role for Global Garden Refugee Training Farm (GGRTF)–when Founder Linda Seyler retired, Program Officer Lyle Allen began weekly check-ins with new Executive Director Haley LeRand to provide guidance with her transition and GGRTF’s future.
We have also been excited about our organizing grantees, who have been working on the ground toward systemic change. Illinois Prison Project (IPP) launched The Hope Project, which in its first year has already resulted in the release of five clients. IPP also introduced a felony-murder reform bill in the Illinois House of Representatives. Kenwood Oakland Community Organization worked with seniors to establish a Bill of Rights surrounding decent living conditions and equitable treatment. Healing to Action hosted over 500 conversations with community members that raised awareness about gender-based violence, and engaged 120 people in pushing the school district to implement a sex-ed curriculum. We saw a few leaders recognized for this work and appointed to City task force and committee positions, including Karla Altmayer from Healing to Action and Jianan Shi from Raise Your Hand IL.
We were pleased to see many of our journalism grantees at the Investigative Reporting Program’s 2023 Logan Symposium. The panels stood out not only for highlighting outstanding work in investigative journalism, but also for urging those in attendance to do better when it comes to the treatment of sources and whistleblowers, and scrutinizing information that is provided by law enforcement. Our grantees participated on panels and networked outside of events, and some of those meetings led to deeper connections and shared projects. Rahsaan Thomas from Empowerment Avenue and Jesse Vasquez from Pollen Initiative, both formerly incarcerated individuals, shared a panel and tackled issues journalists face when covering prisons. Trevor Timm from Freedom of the Press Foundation spoke with Daniel Ellsberg and Reality Winner about challenges whistleblowers face in the United States. Post the symposium, several of our grantees are holding regular monthly meetings to share ideas and support.
Richard and Crystal Logan were also able to attend the 2023 Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden. They saw over 2000 journalists, and met with funders and interested parties to talk about achievements, challenges and plans for the future. Many of our worldwide grantees were present.
Program Officer Germán Castañeda attended the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, where attendees gained insight into the often years-long process to make these films, about the dangers faced by some of the creators, and of the myriad of choices made that are often not considered by viewers.
Outside of symposiums, our grantees have been making waves in the world of investigative journalism this year. Organizations that we funded when they could still be considered “start-ups,” like El Tímpano and New York Focus, amassed huge success and connections with big funders. Several of our grantees won award after award for their critical reporting–for example, Reveal took home 3 National Edward R. Murrow Awards, which is a significant number compared to the organization’s size. Many of our grantees found innovative ways to reach a multi-media audience, such as how Investigate Midwest created a WhatsApp community for their audience of immigrants and farmworkers. And we saw direct impact from our grantees’ efforts, whether it was retaliation from the government (see: “Disclose journalist taken into custody“), or hundreds of community members coming together to support a cause (see: “Bristol raises £10k for Barton House residents in 48hrs“).
In 2023, we celebrated our grantees who opened or broke ground on new spaces. Impact Behavioral Health Partners’ Lanam Rapp building offers 16 individual units for people living with serious mental illness; The Boulevard’s rebuilt east wing restores capacity for their innovative health programming; and Sarah’s Circle soon-to-be third building will provide 28 apartments for women experiencing homelessness.
But for some organizations, the cost of renting or buying a physical space can strain budgets and stunt growth. The RDLF has purchased properties across the city as a direct and tangible investment into these organizations. In 2023, we saw several of our partners make great strides in enriching communities with the infrastructure we provided.
One unforgettable success: Port of Entry opened its doors in the summer to a raving audience. The RDLF purchased the building for Albany Park Theater Project’s production and toured the space while it was still under construction in May. The amount of creativity poured into each and every room was breathtaking, and the show itself was both heart-wrenching and inspiring. But what makes this investment even more meaningful is how it centers Albany Park. The production employed Albany Park youth and community members throughout the entirety of the production, and many of the since-graduated high school seniors are continuing to support Port of Entry as interns, staff, and performers.
When we provided Onward Neighborhood House their second location in Belmont Cragin, a 30,000 square foot warehouse, it was because we saw them bursting at the seams trying to meet the needs of their neighborhood. While the building is not yet fully operational, they have wasted no time utilizing the space. In August they held the largest event in their 129-year history in the warehouse parking lot, providing fresh produce, clothes, health screenings, and much more.
Meanwhile, Taskforce Prevention & Community Services is settling in to the new home we secured in Austin. We are excited to see them expand their medical and wellness services; a food program; and in particular The Vogue School, where LGBTQ youth can express themselves through dance while being engaged in affirming healthcare. It’s still a work in progress, but when the RDLF team visited them during a winter wear distribution, they were met with a whirlwind of evening activities and a trusting, loving community.
2023 was a big year for our in-kind programs. Our Fresh Produce Program embraced 50+ regional farmers, sourcing 400,000+ pounds of produce that reached tens of thousands of individuals. Our Winter Wear Program provided $1.5 million worth of coats, boots, and other winter essentials to 47 different neighborhoods and thousands of individuals in need, including many new arrivals who have never seen a Chicago winter. And our Rescue & Redistribution Program blossomed into a full-fledged operation, allowing us to provide tons of food that would have otherwise gone to waste to nonprofit organizations and their communities.
None of this would be possible, however, without our partners and volunteers. Whether it’s by connecting us with new organizations, holding distribution events, unloading donations, or making use of even the oddest goods we’ve received, our partners and volunteers are a huge component of our in-kind operations. No matter the weather or the task, they’ve demonstrated an immense dedication to supporting those in need.
One notable superstar is community activist, René White. Working with René across all three of our in-kind programs has been an honor for the whole team. Her unwavering dedication, creative approaches, positivity, and generosity of spirit are an inspiration to everyone she meets. For decades she has been running pop-up distributions across the south side to provide fresh produce, clothes, and other necessities. In 2023 alone, the pop-ups René ran in partnership with the RDLF provided at least $200,000 worth in goods to the south side community.
Working with our partners and volunteers has been an inspiring experience for our staff. We gain new perspectives from all those working on the ground and we learn from each other the best ways to deliver the mission. This process has influenced not only our in-kind work but our grantmaking as well, as we think about our role in assisting our grantees to reach their fullest potential.