Woods Fund Improves Youth Creative Writing Program in Chicago

It's possible that the book you're reading was written by a graduate of the Young Chicago Authors' program. Thanks to support from the Woods Fund of Chicago, the program has gotten a major boost in attendance and success. Woods funds grants for community organizing, public policy, capacity building, and arts and culture every year. Arts and culture grants like the one Young Chicago Authors received generally range from $8,500 to $15,000. (See Woods Fund: Chicago Area Grants).

Founded in 1991 by published author and teacher Dr. Robert S. Boone, Young Chicago Authors (YCA) aims to expose Chicago's youth to more creative writing. (See Grants for Creative Writing). Since then, YCA has held after-school, weekend, and summer classes and workshops to teach students of all ages the basics of creative writing. At this time, YCA provides programs to over 2,500 Chicago-area teenagers and reaches an audience of more than 30,000 people with its publications, performances, and literary events.

Woods is the recipient of the 2013 National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) Award for Small/Mid-Sized Private Foundations. During the selection process, one nominator commented, "Woods Fund of Chicago offers support to nonprofits that mesh authentic community organizing with advocacy." Unlike other major philanthropy organizations, Woods demonstrates confidence in grantees by primarily providing general operating support grants, which lets nonprofits choose how to best spend their grant money.

Woods Fund has a smaller giving budget than some other major philanthropy organizations around the city, and it spreads grants pretty evenly among the nonprofit organizations it supports. Although Woods does support some national organizations, it's clear that its focus in on the Chicago neighborhoods. Woods' board of directors recently integrated the arts and culture section into their other areas of interest. However, they do give serious consideration to arts and culture organizations that serve to mobilize communities, drive public policies forward, and bridge gaps between conflicting groups.

If your creative writing nonprofit is looking to the Woods Fund for a grant, first ensure that your program's objectives are public policy advocacy and social/economic change. Just having top-notch artistic talent isn't going to cut it. Woods holds regular informational sessions for new grant-seekers and posts updates on their Guidelines & Criteria page. Sessions are held at four locations throughout the city, and reservations are accepted by email.