One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for May 2014

Funding Opportunity: Chiditarod Grants

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Chiditarod Logo

(Special thanks to Michi Trota of Chicago Nerd Social Club for her help in writing this post. Her take on this year’s Chiditarod can be found here.)

As a board member for the Chicago Nerd Social Club, I frequently find myself involved in some great, creative efforts to engage people around causes with a pop culture flair (including organizing a charity auction for Chicago TARDIS) Efforts like this creatively engage people into social benefit, and contain really great lessons for non-profits, social ventures, and social entrepreneurs….not the least of which is the idea that social impact isn’t just important, it can be fun….and provide funding opportunities.

Back in March, I volunteered for Chiditarod, is a lively, engaging effort to benefit the
Greater Chicago Food Depository. (Or in their words, “probably the world’s largest mobile food drive, collecting over 100,000 pounds of food and raising over $100,000 to date ). Chiditarod involves shopping carts, costumes, and….well, it’s a combination of winter-based sports, Mardi Gras, and sheer enthusiasm. (Although based on an event in San Francisco, most of the charitable aspects of the event were pioneered in Chicago).

Recently, Chiditarod announced a grant opportunity for Chicago area charitableor organizations that are directly fighting hunger, making an impact on local food sustainability, and/or empowering individuals and communities through food education. Chiditarod has allocating up to $25,000 (in $5,000 increments ), and the application and nomination process has already begun, with an application deadline of 11:59 pm on June 30, 2014. (Full details can be found via

Organizations can either apply directly or be nominated by filling out this preliminary form on Google Docs. Conditions for organizations to apply for Chiditarod grants include:

  1. innovative educational opportunities,
  2. building partnerships with other organizations and policy-relevant leaders engaged in local issues,
  3. health nutrition or creative work on some aspect of food, and
  4. innovation to address challenges to food access and availability
CNSC Volunteer Team

Photo Credit Michelle Benedicta

One of the great things about Chiditarod is how it engages people in a creative, fun mannery – not just through regular online channels (like its web site and social media), but in how it allows both contestants and volunteers to share in the fun. Back in March, CNSC volunteers ran a race checkpoint, and set up a Star Wars-themed Hoth warming station at Emporium. Getting into the spirit of the event, Chicago Nerds volunteers dressed in appropriate cosplay. (In all fairness, I was clad in a bathrobe and towel, cosplaying Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy….but I missed the memo).

Fundraising events with a pop culture flair are one very creative way of engaging people in social benefit efforts, and Chiditarod runs a uniquely engaging event. Their grant program is now another great way to provide a much greater impact….and they should be publicly commended, and the best way is for organizations to apply for their grant program.

Thanks again for reading – as always, you are more than welcome to leave comments and questions below. You are also more than welcome to join our growing community on Facebook, and can always reach out to me privately – my contact information can be found on this blog’s About page.


Written by gordondym

May 30, 2014 at 9:49 am

Advice For A New Grad: Social Change Careers

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C Now - DePaulLike many of my fellow Chicago Now bloggers, I am writing this week to offer advice to a new grad (or graduates) about non-profit, social entrepreneurship, or other social change careers. As someone who has had a long career which includes nonprofit work, this is especially timely – I’m more than happy to share my experiences. (Plus, I think it will make for some interesting online conversation.

So without further adieu, here are some suggestions for current grads looking to enter the realm of nonprofits, social ventures, and other social change agencies:

  • Working in Social Change Doesn’t Make You Special – It’s very easy to believe that because we may be working for noble causes, we are somehow provided with a greater nobility. It’s still very important for us to maintain a sense of humility – that we’re all in this together, and should advocate for collaboration and community over “gatekeeping”.
  • Your Career Will Evolve and Grow – Although new grads may be
    starting at a relatively low position, their careers are going to change, grow, and evolve. Speaking from personal experience, I started as a substance abuse counselor, entered community mobilization and nonprofit administration, and now consult for nonprofits and social ventures….which I never predicted would happen. Change is something to be embraced, welcomed, and nurtured in a nonprofit/social change career.
  • Technology Itself Is Not A Cure-All – With increasing awareness and advocacy around technology (such as open source software, social media, etc), it is very easy to forget that technology and web-based tools are a means to an end (serving a specific business purpose) rather than ends in
  • Network, Network, Network – Although Millenials are really good at reaching out and connecting, many other graduates of various generations sometimes avoid this. One good tool for researching contacts and finding professional information is Linked In…and using Twitter and engagement platforms like Hootsuite can be beneficial in engaging in real-time conversations. (Plus, Chicago has a variety of networking events, and Networked Chicago lists various networking events and opportunities. And speaking of which….
  • People Are Not Means to An End – Whether they’re networking contacts, volunteers, clients, or online advocates, other people are human beings to be treated with respect and dignity. It’s a lesson that can be easily forgotten in day-to-day work, but is the most critical lesson I’ve learned from working in social change
  • Burnout Is Avoidable Through Balance – Working in nonprofits and social change often means hard work, long hours, and handling difficult situations – all of which can lead to burnout. Having a life outside
    of work is critical, and taking time off to recharge can be extremely healthy – and helpful – to your career.
  • Professional Development is a Good Thing – Whether it’s via coursework at brick-and-mortar venues, sessions at the Donors Forum, or online venues like, learning is never complete, and any opportunity to expand your knowledge and awareness will be beneficial to your career.

So for all graduates, regardless of age or program, remember – nonprofit/social change careers are an adventure to be embraced. I don’t regret any of the professional decisions I have made, and quite honestly, I sincerely hope people entering the field can have a varied, interesting career.

Any tips, guidelines, or resources for new grads looking to enter the nonprofit/social change field? Please feel free to leave that information in the contents. In addition, there are a variety of other ways to interact, including:

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

May 21, 2014 at 10:34 am

Non-Profit Funding Opportunity: Humana Foundation

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One of the many benefits of writing this blog is that I have the opportunity to provide resources, including opportunities for non-profit funding. Many non-profits are finding that the constant search for new funding can impede their ability to make greater impact, and this week’s post focuses on an opportunity through the Humana Foundation.

The Humana Community Benefits Program is a multi-year grant focusing on driving healthy behaviors and healthy relationships, with a specific geographic focus on Chicago (including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, Lake, and McHenry counties), Tampa Bay and San Antonio. More information (including application instructions) can be found via, with applications being taken through June 30th, and formal judging performed in August. These grants, funded by the Humana Foundation, seek to provide transformational impact on nonprofit organizations and improve the health and well-being of their communities. By focusing on programs that make an impact, the Foundation hopes to impact individuals by building character skills and improving the overall quality of life, and fostering stronger internal ties within the community.

Programs that the Foundation is interested in funding include (but are not limited to):

  • Physical activity and sports programs
  • Nutrition education programs
  • Intergenerational and peer-to-peer mentorships between caring adults and youth
  • Friendly visitors supporting isolated seniors living at home
  • Coach mentors to at-risk youth

One of the ways in which the Program is integrating tech is by creating unique online content – here’s a great sample video focusing on a past program recipient:

This year, however, the program is integrating some new features that will help
non-profits throughout the application process, providing networking and other opportunities for applicants, demonstrate program effectiveness, and advocate for some great nonprofit work. These features include:

  • Prospective applications can locate past grant winners via the HCB Mentor Page for guidance and insight into the application process;
  • A semi-annual digital newsletter, highlighting news about the program as well as information from past grant winners;
  • Building on a crowdsourcing model, three finalists in each city will be able to engage their online community in voting for the most deserving program. Finalists would provide a video and short narrative, and could use a variety of
    techniques (including social media) to engage its online and offline audience.

Funds will be awarded yearly – $200,000 the first year, $100,000 the second year, and $50,000 the final year. Funds will be awarded each year based on confirmation of completed milestones and required outcome reports. Agencies are encouraged to include practical, measurable milestones that are clearly aligned with the grantee’s mission. Since these grants require a large amount of resources to operate, the Humana Foundation suggests that applying organizations must have a minimum operating budget of $1,000,000 and cite previous projects in order to be considered.

Although there are many online and offline opportunities to locate grants (including the Donors Forum), many Chicago nonprofits still struggle to locate available funding sources. Thankfully, the Humana Foundation is taking an extremely proactive stance in outreach to the community, and is providing great leadership for building relationships with the greater community.

Know of any other funding opportunities for non-profits….or any other topics for consideration? You’re more than welcome to suggest them either via the comments below, or you can always visit and join us on Facebook . You are also free to follow me on Twitter or contact me privately – contact information can be found on the blog’s About page.

As always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

May 16, 2014 at 10:20 am

Letters to a New Mom: Online Resources

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Hey Moms - Find Online ResourcesWith Mother’s Day around the corner (meaning tomorrow), helping a new mom find online resources is critical. There are plenty of great opportunities to help, and along with my fellow Chicago Now bloggers, I’ll be writing another in a series of “Letters to a New Mom”, hoping to bring light to a few online resources.

If you are looking for a great portal to connect with other Chicago-area parents, a great starting point would be the Neighborhood Parents Network. Originally founded in 1980 as the Northside Parents Network, NPN is a non-profit focused on connecting Chicago area parents with resources and support groups to help them navigate parenting in the city. Not only does the site aggregate information about various events and agencies, the site also has a dedicated discussion forum focusing on the unique issues parents face in Chicago. It’s the first, best stop for finding information focusing on becoming a parent.

Another resource to consider is Founding Moms, which focuses on connecting and empowering mom entrepreneurs throughout the country. Although the main site has a national focus, there are many great resources for moms to download, connect, and Network. In addition, Founding Moms has several meetups in Illinois, including their main Chicago/Oak Park meetup group. For female entrepreneurs focusing on social ventures and social entrepreneurship, Founding Moms can be a great resource for making an impact both on the community and on their family.

In an effort to remain extremely tech savvy and accessible to all, the Chicago Public Chicago-Public-Library-logoLibrary has recently revamped its web presence. From allowing patrons to create a user ID and password to a much more user-friendly interface, the Chicago Public Library’s website will now be better able to reach parents seeking programs, resources, and access. Although it may not be mom-specific, anything that helps connect people to resources is always welcome!

For moms who are seeking some eco-friendly – and extremely offbeat – events, they can’t do any better than Green Parent Chicago. Focusing on a variety of activities ranging from biking to planting, Green Parent Chicago lists a variety of activities for moms, dads, and anyone interested in taking in some great environmentally-friendly activities.

Like many of you, I will be spending the day with my mother….and it will be a very special Mother’s Day. Several years ago, my mother received a liver transplant at Rush, and I will always be eternally grateful. Their doctors do incredible work, and although mentioning Rush’s transplant unit may seem a bit off topic….I felt the need to acknowledge their efforts, as Mother’s Day would not be the same without them.

Do you have any great resources for new moms? Please feel free to make suggestions in the comments below. In addition, you are always welcome to visit and join us on Facebook (which is starting to grow, and you’ll get content not featured on the blog but we’re looking to grow), and you can contact me directly via information on  our About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!