Unlike lots of education grantmakers around the city, the Chicago Foundation for Education takes a practical and feasible approach to improving public schools for students from Pre-K up to high school seniors. This is definitely the foundation to know if you’re in need of classroom supplies or a new strategy for your lesson plans.
However, CFE does not make a habit of funding mentoring, tutoring, or after-school programs for students. CFE is all about teacher training, and the new Executive Director, Maggie Morrison, is on board with that.
“A good education provides opportunities and choices... and it all starts with teachers,” Morrison said in a press release.
Morrison stepped into the role of Executive Director at the foundation in October 2014. She brought with her 13 years of experience working with education-related nonprofits at the Northwestern University School of Law, University of Missouri-Rolla, and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Most recently, she was Chicago International Charter School’s Chief Development Officer, where she advanced 16 public charter schools by increasing philanthropic support by 400 percent and tripling the donor base.
In October 2013 while Morrison was still in her previous position, her charter school, the Chicago International Charter School Longwood, was placed on the Chicago Public Schools warning list for failing to meet academic standards. That particular school is 100 percent African American and Latino and 85 percent of students are low income. To fix the problem, she had a hand in bringing in a new management company, hiring a new principal, and cranking out some teacher professional development programs.
Finding ways to boost donor support is clearly a key asset to look for in a new foundation leader. CEF relies on the donations of individuals, corporations, and foundations to fund its grants, and about 85 percent of all contributions go toward program support for enhanced classroom experiences. Morrison’s hiring signals an internal push to engage Chicago area donors to ensure that grant money keeps flowing to Chicago public schools. That is what Morrison has excelled at in the past, after all.
Compared to other grantmaking entities in the Chicago area, CEF grants are tiny. Most grants range from $100 to $1,000 depending on the program. We’re interested to see if Morrison can work her magic at CEF to pool more support and funds from local donors. Would an increase in donor funds translate into larger grant awards or towards further diversifying foundation programming? Good question.
Morrison replaces Angie Pilgrim, who headed north to serve as the Grants and Program Officer for the St. Croix Valley Foundation in Wisconsin. Ms. Morrison can be reached directly at MMorrison@CFEgrants.org.