FUNDING AREAS: Arts, civic affairs, education, environment, health, and Jewish causes
CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)
IP TAKE: Oprah's former giving director is scaling up and professionalizing the grantmaking for one of Chicago's best known and most philanthropic families.
PROFILE: Who do you use as an employment reference? Caren Yanis uses Oprah. Before joining the Crown Family Philanthropies in 2009, Yanis spent more than eight years managing Oprah Winfrey's numerous philanthropies. Once she parted ways with Oprah, she became the first non-family member to break through the Crown Family's inner circle.
Yanis certainly had her hands full while working for Oprah's expansive and highly publicized philanthropic network. While serving as executive director of Oprah's Angel Network, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, and the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, she oversaw public-private projects to build schools in South Africa and rebuild homes in after Hurricane Katrina. She also helped Oprah with educational and youth development projects across North America, including a $4 million grant for educational programs at an innovative school in south Atlanta.
In more recent years, as executive director of Crown Family Philanthropies, Yanis has been managing organizational growth, staff-building communications, and strategic grantmaking projects for the family foundation. Yanis got in on the ground floor, just as Crown Family Philanthropies switched gears and changed names from the previous Arie and Ida Crown Memorial in 2009. From humble beginnings, founders Arie and Ida Crown emigrated from Eastern Europe to Chicago in hopes of building a better life for their children. Their 1919 creation, Material Service Corporation, ended up being one of the most successful companies in America. Crown's current program areas include art, civic affairs, environment, education, health, human services, and Jewish causes.
At the 2013 Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy national conference, Yanis stated, "Philanthropy is a bridge between what you see on the ground and trustees. We are storytellers."
Not only does Yanis have the presidential position nailed down, but she continues to be active in the Chicago philanthropy outreach community. She keeps herself busy as a member of the Donors Forum board of directors, an Ambassador for the Chicago Global Donors Network, a President's Circle member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and a member of the Critical Impact Awards Committee at the Council on Foundations. Before teaming up with Oprah, she worked on several other major magazines and social service projects and promotions. Clearly, she's wasted little time since obtaining her broadcast journalism degree from Boston's Emerson College and non-profit leadership certification from Stanford.
If your non-profit organization is looking to connect with Yanis about obtaining a grant with Crown (or just chat about how it was to work with Oprah), you'll need to have a budget more than $200,000, secure a 501(c)(3) status, and be independent from government support. Your organization also must be based in the Chicagoland area, because grants outside the city are made by invitation only. Since Crown only grants funds for general operating support and specific projects in the aforementioned program areas, you can send your requests for research, salaries, and exhibitions elsewhere. According to Crown's Grant Cycle Timeline, letters of intent must be submitted by June 17, and if you're invited to apply, proposals must be submitted by August 1.