A Significant Strategic Shift


Racial Justice Grantmaking: Our Bold New Mission

In this season, where giving intertwines with gratitude, and new resolutions abound, we stand, deeply rooted in thankfulness. Our journey, woven with countless relationships – with grantees, with community partners, both past and present – is a tapestry of shared time, feedback, and collaboration, culminating in this pivotal moment.

The path to aligning Grand Victoria Foundation with the pursuit of racial justice in Illinois has been as winding as the Mississippi river. In 2019, our board agreed to view our work through a race-conscious lens. The following year, we turned our gaze inward, learning to navigate the intricate landscapes of racial equity and justice within philanthropy. This introspection led to a lexicon for dialogue and a theory of action, shaping our relationships and redefining our work.

The summer of 2020 was not just historic; it was a crucible in which racial justice was thrust to the forefront of the national consciousness. In those weeks, it’s estimated that over 26 million people participated in racial justice protests, making it the largest social movement in U.S. history. It was a resounding affirmation that justice for one is justice for all. Our mission and vision are mirrors of this belief, acknowledging both the necessity of Black leadership and the collective effort needed for true transformation.

2021 was a year of strategic planning, deeply influenced by the seismic impact of racial justice protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Our focus sharpened on building power in Black communities, recognizing their centrality in our pivot towards racial justice. However, the year ended with plans still unformed, reflecting our ongoing journey towards positioning Grand Victoria Foundation for race-centered work.

In 2022, we regrouped with renewed focus, ensuring our mission and vision mirrored our journey towards becoming a racial justice beacon. We embraced diverse perspectives, fostered new connections, and transitioned others with respect. Our board and staff engagement surged to unprecedented heights – the highest levels I’ve seen in 10 years. This culminated in vision and mission statements that boldly reimagine our organization. We are so excited to share these with you!

Our new vision, Grand Victoria Foundation envisions a just and vibrant Illinois rooted in abundant health, wealth, and joy, where Black people and all communities can flourish.

Our new mission, Grand Victoria Foundation catalyzes racial justice in Illinois by cultivating the voices, power, and aspirations of Black People; and by supporting communities of color for collective liberation.

This year we laid more groundwork in preparation for our strategic shift. We completed and shared the Illinois Racial Justice landscape study (where we identified 81 black population centers and other critical insights). Our team visited Pembroke Township and East St. Louis, Illinois – two places full of Black historical significance to Illinois. We ended 2023 by approving our inaugural strategic plan, a five-year roadmap with a Black-centered focus. This plan articulates our commitment to support community power building, seeding, and sharing power, aligning resources with our mission, focusing on key locations in Illinois, shifting Black narratives, and applying an abundance mindset to nurturing the talent, resources and knowledge of the Foundation. We look forward to sharing more details of our plan in Spring 2024 which will be accompanied by an updated website and new engagement guidelines for our grantee partners.

For a quarter-century, Grand Victoria Foundation has been a trailblazer in philanthropy. We are extremely proud of our enduring relationships with community foundations to build a system of community-based philanthropy. Our work with land trusts and conservation organizations for over a decade planted strong roots for statewide coordination of conservation efforts at scale. And our deep commitment to improving the early childhood education system contributed to Illinois’ status as one of the most progressive states in the country on this issue. These experiences have shepherded us to a new beginning, a path that continues our legacy of trailblazing.

Now, we stand at the threshold of a significant strategic shift, responding to the imperatives of our time and planting a stake for the future. This embarkment, through steady oversight, promises to be as enduring as our past 25 years. We invite you to join us on this incredible new journey, a path illuminated by the demand for action, the light of hope, and the power of community.

As the year draws to a close, Grand Victoria Foundation and I extend our warmest wishes for a holiday season filled with joy and a New Year brimming with profound impact.

Sharon Bush

GVF President

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