Vicennial Report

Message from the Co-Trustees

elizabeth-morse-vicennial-report-cover-image.jpgOn behalf of The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust and Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust (“The Trust” or “Trust” respectively, or “The Trusts” or “Trusts” collectively), we welcome you to our Vicennial Report, the second report we have made to the community since our establishment in 1992. Publishing only two reports in 20 years may, at first blush, seem sparse, but frugality of time and treasure was not the motivator for this conscious decision. Rather than annual paper reports, both Trusts during their early years established websites to communicate grant making procedures and priorities, sooner than many other private foundations undertook a similar strategy. Moreover, we concluded that a ten-year look-back period constituted an appropriate span over which to track grant making trends, measure results, and develop strategies for the next decade.

In our Decennial Report we celebrated the funding of our two Trusts and took note of what had been accomplished in the preceding ten years, including the development of a grant making mission/focus and an administrative/procedural structure to guide us in carrying out that mission/focus. We also used the occasion of the report to feature ten grantees, five for each Trust, as examples of the kinds of organizations and types of programs that we had supported and planned to continue supporting. Finally, the Decennial Report provided an appropriate platform from which to announce our intention to focus future funding on five broad categories of programs.

Similarly, in our Vicennial Report we will feature ten grantees, five from each Trust. This time, however, each Trust has picked one organization that lines up most closely with each of the five tenets of The Trust’s Values Statement. In addition to these ten organizations, we will feature two awardees that received joint grants from both The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust and Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust.

We take this slightly different approach in our Vicennial Report because of information we learned during a third-party evaluation of The Trusts performed in conjunction with our twentieth anniversary. This evaluation, thoughtfully and professionally conducted by Business of the Arts, or BOTA, revealed that some grant applicants struggled with our requirement that organizations successfully fit themselves within one or more of the five tenets that comprise The Trusts’ Values Statement, formerly known as The Trusts' Mission Statement. We are sympathetic to this struggle, because we understand that our values-based grant making differentiates us from most other private foundations, which typically advise prospects of the specific types of support or areas of interest that they fund.

The BOTA evaluation also revealed that the foregoing struggle, upon occasion, makes it difficult for some nonprofits to determine whether to submit an application. While we are equally proud of all the grantees whom we support, we have selected these twelve and told their stories because they all successfully navigated The Trusts’ grant application requirements and convincingly demonstrated that the mission of their organizations lined up, and resonated, with one or more of the five tenets that make up the Morse and Genius Values Statements. We submit these twelve organizations to the reader in the hope that they can help guide prospective grantees through the application process for each Trust.[1]

Also different from our Decennial Report is that we feature two grantees to whom both Trusts made joint grants. Both Trusts follow the same general rule that once a grantee establishes contact with one or the other Trust, all future applications for support must go to that specific Trust. But as with all general rules, there are exceptions, and we offer up these two organizations to the reader in the hope that they can serve as an example of projects and public charities that have successfully qualified for joint support.

Further in our Decennial Report we listed the following five areas where we intended to focus our grant making during the approaching decade:

  • To work on discerning the depth of the digital divide and to help programs seeking to bridge that divide;
  • To remain committed to making general operating grants because of their ability to assist organizations in providing core services;
  • To address regional and international transportation issues, particularly as a way of facilitating trade and travel among peoples, thereby helping promote world peace and understanding;
  • To expand our grant making to communities in Chicago where we were not active during our first ten years; and
  • To continue supporting programs that promote diversity in Chicago’s fine arts organizations—on board, staff, and program levels, as well as in the pit, on the stage, and in the audience.

Reflecting upon this list of good intentions, we believe that The Trusts have performed relatively well, though there is always room for improvement. However, the reader should form his or her own opinion regarding The Trusts’ performance, and to assist in forming that opinion, we include in the Vicennial Report an analysis of each of the five foregoing focus areas, listing a sample of organizations in each area that were beneficiaries of a Morse or Genius grant.[2] We also provide herein some statistics, culled from the BOTA survey, pertaining to: the number of grants made per year by each Trust; how grants made by each Trust align with each tenet of The Trusts’ Values Statement; and grants made according to fields of interest. And having reflected on the to-do list of the last ten years, we now turn our attention to the future. As our donor, a long-lived philanthropist, so well understood, the needs of society will change over the coming years. Acknowledging that it is difficult to predict how these needs will change, we nonetheless take advantage of this introduction to our Vicennial Report to announce our intention:

  • To remain committed to making general operating grants because of their ability to assist organizations in providing core services;
  • To address social and entrepreneurial challenges facing the Chicago region, helping to promote regional solutions to regional problems and to improve the quality of life for all our citizens at a time of increasing global competition;
  • To heighten scientific knowledge within the Chicago region and to increase education opportunities in science for women and people from diverse backgrounds; and
  • To continue supporting programs that promote diversity in Chicago’s fine arts organizations—on board, staff, and program levels, as well as in the pit, on the stage, and in the audience.

In conclusion, we express our deep appreciation to all those with whom we have worked during the past ten years. In particular, we acknowledge:

Nicole M. Arnold, Fabrice Braunrot, Curtis D. Drayer, Connie A. Giampapa, M. Steven Ginn, Kelly R. Hayashi, Thayer J. Herte, Kristin A. Huml, Srilatha Lakkaraju, Jack T. Lanphar, Michael K. Matthews, Matthew K. McKee, Anne L. Myers, John C. Paolini, Charles R. Phillips, Lisa Philp, Melissa Phipps, Jeffrey Roberts, Beth Rodriguez, Camille J. Schmidek, Steven A. Stein, Charles Slamar, Thomas Southwood, and Martha S. Wright.

We humbly hope that Richard M. Genius, Jr., and the Morse/Genius Family would be pleased with what we have been able to accomplish. We have learned a tremendous amount during our first 20 years of existence. We know, however, that there is more to learn and plenty of hard work ahead. We look forward to the challenge and remain deeply grateful for the opportunity to be of service to our community.

Read the full Vicennial Report


[1] For additional information regarding the BOTA evaluation and study, we direct your attention to the section in this Report entitled “Lessons Learned: Results of Third Party Evaluation.”
[2] See Report on 10 year Grant Making Focus.

Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust

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