Regina McGraw, Wieboldt Foundation

TITLE: Executive Director

FUNDING AREAS: Urban community development, affordable housing

CONTACT: reginam@wieboldt.org, (312) 624-8916

IP TAKE: McGraw has been an integral part of the Wieboldt Foundation for more than two decades. Her community involvement nearly mirrors the objectives of the foundation she works for. Labor unions, homelessness, and immigrant support come out on top.

PROFILE: Regina McGraw is a veteran of Wieboldt Foundation; she's been there since 2004. During her two decades-plus, she has specialized in affordable housing, labor, and urban community development. 

In Alicia Epstein Korten's book, Change Philanthropy: Candid Stories of Foundations Maximizing Results, McGraw wrote about how a 2001 site visit in Las Vegas changed her opinions about unions. She observed the working conditions of hotel and restaurant employees and commented, “Vegas really showed me what could happen in a community when jobs actually paid living wages.”

McGraw brought that experience back to Wieboldt and applied it to Chicago. And she's been looking for more opportunities to fund labor-community partnerships and alliances ever since. But labor isn't the only thing that McGraw is passionate about. McGraw is also passionate about collaboration. McGraw has personally designed two funder collaboratives: the Successful Schools Project and the the Community Capacity Building Initiative. She's also had a good deal of success working with other foundations, like the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Ford Foundation to make bigger things happen that Wieboldt could pull off alone. And she's worked with Travelers and Immigrants Aid, an agency that connects pro bono attorneys with people needing political asylum. She's also been active with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

When it comes to grantmaking, McGraw likes to mix things up with a variety of general operating support grants, grassroots promotion grants, and ongoing workshops and meetings.

She also mixes things up in terms of her participation in groups around Chicago.  She's unbelievably active in the Chicago community, fulfilling numerous leadership roles at the Neighborhood Funders Group related to labor collaborations and member services. Her walls are filled with community improvement awards from the Washington Park Community Coalition, the Coalition to Protect Community Housing, and Southsiders Organizing for Unity and Liberation. But it doesn't stop there. Her nonprofit experience dates back to stints with the Center for Economic Progress, the Chicago Network for Survivors of Domestic Violence, and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

McGraw is committed to keeping her foundation transparent and accessible to grantees. In a public statement, she wrote, “Publicly available data at the Foundation Center will verify fulfillment of these goals.” The goal she was referring to was providing 100% of grant dollars to benefit economically disadvantaged persons. McGraw went on to explain, “As a responsible steward of wealth for the public good whose grant making affects the public, we make our goals as transparent as possible, and that is one reason we make this public statement.” This is a welcome departure from some other foundations around the city that seem to award grants behind smoke and mirrors.

According to Democratic political group, Discover the Networks, “the Wieboldt Foundation's mission has veered notably to the political left, with an increasing emphasis on supporting groups whose mission is to bring about social change via the redistribution of wealth and power, and to aid the victims of America’s alleged societal inequities—particularly those inequities that affect minority groups.” Despite this group's observation, McGraw does not discount the importance in religion in the community. In Catherine E. Wilson's book, The Politics of Latino Faith: Religion, Identity, and Urban Community, McGraw commented that the Catholic identity of The Resurrection Project, “is a vital piece of organizing and a definite strength for the organization.”

Her professional career pre-Wieboldt was long ago, but it featured serving as Vice President for Public Information at the Voices for Illinois Chicago, which is a children's advocacy group. In this role, she led the annual Illinois Kids Count Project, coordinated community briefings, and oversaw the production of public policy reports.

To learn more about Wieboldt's grantmaking, check out the Grant Guidelines and application process on the foundation's website.