One Chicago nonprofit enjoyed a little love this past Valentine's Day, thanks to one of the city's most charitable investment banking and asset management firms. On February 14th, the Midtown Educational Foundation announced a major grant they received from the William Blair & Company Foundation. Although philanthropy has always been a big part of William Blair's heritage, the company foundation stays tight-lipped about its grantmaking strategies and activities.
Although William Blair & Company is headquartered in Chicago, it has expanded to include offices in 12 cities on five continents including New York, Shanghai, and Zurich. William Blair and his colleague, Francis Bonner, established the firm in 1935 as Blair, Bonner & Co. The investment firm is staffed by over 1,100 employees and reported $72.4 billion in client assets a the end of 2013.
Although we don't know the actual amount of the Blair grant, we do know it established a two-year philanthropic partnership to provide new computer labs at the Metro Achievement Center for Girls and the Midtown Center for Boys, a professional apprenticeship in finance, mentoring relationships, and other volunteer opportunities. To kick off the partnership, William Blair employees presented 75 new Kindle eReaders to high school students at Metro and Midtown.
The Midtown Educational Foundation (MEF) offers enrichment opportunities for after-school and summertime programs in separate centers for high school boys and girls. The girls' center is located in Chicago's West Loop, and boys center is in the city's Bucktown neighborhood. Midtown's curriculum incorporates academics, character enrichment, and extracurricular opportunities in business, technology, and the arts. Established in 1965, MEF has a long-standing track record of success, ensuring that the MEF Senior Class of 2012 became the 13th consecutive class with 100 percent high school graduation and college enrollment.
"William Blair's decision to fund MEF's College Orientation Program represents a significant investment in the future of Chicago urban youth, enabling success in high school, college and beyond," said Glenn Wilke, MEF's Executive Director. "The firm's commitment of time and resources will greatly enhance a program that is already producing positive results."
William Blair & Company has a reputation of supporting youth in communities where its employees work. Although the company foundation doesn't have a separate website, we're now watching the headlines to see which other cities are on Blair's philanthropy radar.
“Chicago's success—our success—is dependent on a highly educated and motivated work force,” said John R. Ettelson, President and CEO of William Blair & Company. “The philanthropic partnership with Midtown Educational Foundation will give students the tools, advice and exposure they need to bridge the achievement gap and envision the world of opportunities that lies ahead."