The Crown family's philanthropic legacy dates back to 1947 and the creation of the Arie and Ida Crown Memorial, named for the pair who immigrated to Chicago from Eastern Europe and whose sons created the Material Service Corporation—a company that later served as the springboard for the illustrious business career of Lester Crown. While Crown is no longer a fixture on the Forbes 400, he remains the family patriarch at the age of 93, and has been a leading figure in Chicago for more than a half-century. In 2009, Crown Family Philanthropies was developed to administer an array of the family’s grant-making priorities, including arts and culture, civic affairs, education, the environment, health and human services, global health, and Jewish life.
One of CFP’s focuses over the past few years has been domestic violence; it has backed a variety of direct services as well as new research in this area. These undertakings recently led its team and other local funders to conceive of a pooled fund to address this issue, which is now stewarded by the Chicago Foundation for Women, called the Family and Interpersonal Resilience and Safety Transformation Fund, or FIRST Fund.
Domestic violence is a pervasive problem—affecting one in three women and one in four men within their lifetimes—but tends to be overlooked by funders, as we've reported. So it's worth taking a closer look at CFP’s evolving and multifaceted approach to domestic violence and how this issue has emerged as a bigger priority for Chicago grantmakers
Christy Prahl, the health and human services program officer at Crown Family Philanthropies, shares this reflection on domestic violence in the city:
While Chicago’s catastrophic gun violence crisis has garnered attention from both the press and public sector, the face of domestic violence often points inward. CFP seeks to enhance the resources available to survivors so that cycles of violence can be broken and families are able to heal and prosper.
In 2015, several years before the FIRST Fund was created, Prahl says the foundation “undertook a strategic deep dive” to determine key drivers of family engagement and impact. It identified domestic violence “as an area of both robust energy and increased opportunity for investment.” CFP then created a grantmaking initiative through which it funded a network of “high-performing” domestic violence agencies.
CFP’s support of direct service, capacity building, and capital expansion have led to an increase in the number of domestic violence shelter beds available across Chicago, Prahl says. For example, in 2016, CFP supported WINGS Metro’s newest site, the first new Chicago domestic violence shelter to open in more than a decade. Along with safe housing solutions, CFP also funds wraparound services like legal help, financial opportunity, and mental health provision.
“This comprehensive approach is the best way to ensure a return to stability for impacted families,” Prahl says.
In 2017, CFP catalyzed and backed domestic violence research with the Polk Bros. Foundation and Michael Reese Health Trust—a domestic violence needs assessment conducted by Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center.
According to the report, current challenges in the realm of domestic violence in Chicago include a lack of services in the city’s South and West Sides, inadequate access to housing and wraparound services, a need for cross-sector collaboration, and insufficient services overall to meet local demand. The report also states that prior to its creation, a comprehensive assessment of the domestic violence response system in Chicago had not been conducted since 2007.
Prahl says CFP and its funding partners did not want this new domestic violence report to “sit on a shelf,” and came up with the idea to create a pooled fund in response. She adds, “We initially proposed this concept to our philanthropic partners for the needs assessment, and from there, we cast a wider net throughout the domestic violence and intimate partner violence prevention space.” In the end, she says they partnered with the Chicago Foundation for Women, which was determined to be the “ideal” steward of the FIRST fund in recognition of its “longstanding leadership in the DV sector.” Along with CFP and CFW, the Polk Bros. Foundation, and the Michael Reese Health Trust, Prahl says the following funders provided grant support and/or thought partnership to the fund: Alphawood Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, VNA Foundation, and an anonymous foundation. The FIRST Fund launched in the spring of 2018.
“The FIRST Fund was created to support new and collaborative approaches to domestic violence services,” K. Sujata, president and CEO of CFW, tells Inside Philanthropy. The fund will award grants from $5,000 to $25,000 to organizations that work with populations impacted by this type of violence. The initial round of letters of inquiry was due in June and grants will be announced in October.
Sujata feels the type of collaboration this fund exemplifies is crucial to addressing such a persistent societal challenge:
Domestic violence is a systemic problem, cycling from generation to generation. No single organization or funder is going to solve domestic violence; it will take all of us working together. By bringing together funders, we can increase our collective investments and impact, and ensure we are aligned to create lasting change.
More than 2 million Illinoisans are estimated to have experienced domestic violence at some point. The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence worked with more than 41,000 adults who suffered this abuse in 2017, and many more cases go unreported. Also, this coalition had to turn away thousands of women and children who needed shelter last year, which underlines the need for action around this issue in Chicago and beyond.
- Getting Free: How This Corporate Funder Works on Domestic Violence
- The Foundation Working to Ensure Victims of Domestic Violence Have a Place to Sleep
- How One Funder Combines Crowdfunding and Competition to Fight Domestic Abuse
- Avon Foundation Steps Forward to Take on Sexual Assaults on Campus
- To Prevent Domestic Abuse, Foundations Invest in Women's Financial Literacy