(June 18, 2014) The Chicago Community Trust seeks small arts and cultural organizations that are deeply rooted in and reflective of a community, target population or art form that is underrepresented in the Chicago area. Small community-based arts and cultural organizations (those with an operating budget less than $1 million) in Cook County are invited to apply for the four-year SMART Growth capacity-building grant program, which is open for applications beginning on July 15th at

The SMART Growth program of The Chicago Community Trust was established to help small arts and cultural organizations engage their boards and staffs in strengthening management practices that effectively support their missions, enabling them to contribute to their communities and pay living wages to their artists and staff, and remain resilient in the face of economic and demographic shifts. This signature program of the Trust provides an initial assessment of each nonprofit, evaluating critical business functions, such as their financial management and board governance. Program participants also undergo valuable training in the SMART Growth methodology, which includes establishing outcomes that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timed. They then receive three years of general operating grants, which range from $15,000 – $50,000 per year.

Illustrating the range of Chicago communities and art forms served since the SMART Growth grant program was established in 2006, past recipients range from the Chinese Fine Arts Society to the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, from the People’s Music School to Sones de México, from Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater to Hypocrites Theatre.

“The Chicago Community Trust believes that the strength of our region’s cultural vitality is rooted in the diverse landscape of community-based arts and cultural organizations that create affordable and accessible arts opportunities for all residents. That’s why the Trust developed the SMART Growth program,” said Suzanne Connor, Senior Program Officer for Arts and Culture, The Chicago Community Trust.

“With the Trust’s professional direction, our own team moved confidently through new areas of board recruitment, hiring and retaining effective staff, reframing artistic and educational programs, and generating new sources of income and financial contacts,” added Jorge Perez, Executive Director, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater. “We strongly encourage our nonprofit colleagues to apply. We are certain that any organization will greatly benefit from the SMART Growth program, and The Chicago Community Trust team.”

In addition to being reflective of communities or art forms that are underrepresented in the Chicago area, applicant organizations must also meet the following criteria: Status as an Illinois nonprofit with a federal 501 (c ) 3 tax-exempt designation; incorporated as an arts and culture organization (not a social service agency, college or university); located in and primarily serving Cook County; possessing an annual operating budget that is less than $1 million; and have at least one paid management staff person and a functioning volunteer board of directors.

Four information sessions describing in detail the SMART Growth program will take place throughout the city, throughout the summer:

• Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, 4046 West Armitage Avenue
Tuesday June 24, 9-10:30am

• Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 South Cornell Avenue
Wednesday June 25, 6-7:30pm

• Chicago Urban Arts Society, 600 West Cermak Road, Unit 1B
Wednesday July 9, 3-4:30pm

• The Chicago Community Trust, 225 North Michigan Ave, Suite 2200
Thursday July 17, 1-2:30pm

Representatives/leadership from organizations that are considering applying are strongly urged to attend an information session and learn more; advance reservations are required via e-mail to [email protected]

Applications for the SMART Growth grant program will be accepted on line from July 15 – Aug. 29 at For more information on the SMART Growth grant program and/or the information sessions please call 312-616-8000 ext. 122 or visit

About The Chicago Community Trust
The Chicago Community Trust, our region’s community foundation, partners with donors to leverage their philanthropy in ways that transform lives and communities. The Trust, together with its donors, granted more $161 million in 2013 to nonprofits working to develop new audiences to sustain metropolitan Chicago’s vibrant arts organizations, protect the human services safety net for those hardest hit by the recession, stem the devastating effects of foreclosures on our neighborhoods, elevate teaching to meet world-class standards, improve conditions for healthy and active lifestyles, and safeguard the region’s natural resources. By connecting the generosity of donors with the needs of the community, the Trust ensures that our region thrives today and for future generations.