Example Grantees

While the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust values all of its grantees equally, the Trust features this year the following organizations that submitted exemplary grant applications.

Each of the grantees featured here successfully and convincingly established a strong connection to one or more tenets of the Trust's Values Statement, achieved or exceeded its goals, and had a positive and significant impact on the community it serves.

The Trust (identified below as "EMGT") features one exemplary grantee for each tenet of its Values Statements, along with two organizations that the Trust supported jointly with its sister trust, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust (identified below as "EMT").

The Trust's Value Statements

Tenet 1

Promoting "THISS"

Promoting, instilling, and/or reflecting the values of individual and/or organizational thrift, humility, industry, self-sacrifice, and/or self-sufficiency.

The CARA Program

The problem being addressed:            Almost twenty-five percent of Chicagoans live at or below the federal poverty level, a statistic made even more grim during the SARS-COVID-2 epidemic.  Nearly another twenty-five percent of Chicagoans, on the edge of poverty and homelessness, are only one serious illness, accident, or job loss away from falling into this group.  For many of these Chicagoans, barriers to employment—lack of high school degree or GED, challenges of addiction and recovery, limited education and job training, and prior criminal records—complicate the journey towards full employment and independence.
Program Description:             Working with over one-hundred non-profit agencies as referral partners, The Cara Program (“TCP”) utilizes a recruitment process, developed over years from experience with its client demographic, that identifies those who are most ready and motivated to change their lives; candidates must complete a phone screening, attend a one-on-one interview, pass a drug test, and be clean and sober for at least four months prior to admission.  TCP’s program consists of life and career skills training, both of which encourage the students to tackle the root sources of their life challenges.
            The life skills training—known as the “Five Transformations” concept—involves courses on such topics as conflict management, accountability, forgiveness, and love and includes group exercises, individual reflection, and homework.  The career skills training teaches students the hard skills that they will need in today’s job market, such as computer literacy, resume writing, interviewing, and online employment search.  Advanced and specialized training is also available in-house and off-site with TCP’s corporate partners, which offers potential employers a first-hand chance to observe talent and character before conducting an interview.
            TCP’s job placement program not only provides students essential job search skills, empowering them to conduct and manage their own searches, but also connects qualified applicants with TCP’s over one-hundred employment partners, including major corporations, financial institutions, and governmental and non-profit agencies.  Once a student gets that first job, TCP continues its engagement with the student and employer for at least the first year of employment, helping TCP garner one of the highest job retention rates among Chicago’s job placement programs.  Significantly, TCP both works with graduating students to encourage them to excel in the first job and, contemporaneously, provides strategic support for the next stages in the students’ careers, which are indispensable for persistence on the path toward independence.
Connection to Values:  TCP’s program is exceedingly effective, because it is much more than just job training and placement.  Self-knowledge, inner strength, and practical skills are at the critical core of that success, encouraging students to chart their own course to life-long independence.  As such, TCP strongly connects to the Values of thrift, humility, industry, self-sufficiency, and self-sacrifice, as follows:  thrift—students learn how to manage their finances in a way that permits them to survive daily and simultaneously plan for the future; humility—students exhibit the courage to recognize and deal with the personal challenges that stand in the way of leading successful, happy, and meaningful lives; industry—students work hard to confront and overcome those challenges and attain the skills necessary to win a job in a competitive market place; self-sufficiency—by working hard and attaining employment, students are able to care for and make decisions for themselves, thus making Chicago a better place for all to live; and self-sacrifice—students learn to forgo what may have been temporary pleasures and care for the larger group by giving of themselves for the benefit of others.

Amount of grant


Tenet 2

Relieving Human Suffering

Relieving human suffering by: (1) performing research and/or promoting education regarding the treatment of disease; (2) assisting youth who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, have troubled childhoods, have physical or mental disabilities, or experience emotional disorders; (3) addressing the concerns of the elderly; and/or (4) providing succor to humankind during time of natural or human-made disaster.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center

The problem being addressed:            In the United States and around the world, increasing nationalism and economic instability have laid the foundation for a resurgence of “othering,” a process where minority groups within a society are called out, dehumanized, scapegoated, and marginalized, resulting in the persecution and denial of civil rights of these groups.  In particular, othering continues to contribute to the inequality and discrimination confronting racial minorities and LGBTQ people in the United States.
Program Description:             The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center (“ILHMEC”) will host two special exhibitions that demonstrate how individuals, acting alone and collectively, can serve as a powerful, healing antidote to the corrosive evils emanating from othering: “Mandela: Struggle for Freedom;” and “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement.”
Connection to Values:  ILHMEC’s proposal connected strongly to tenets one and five of the Values Statement.  For tenet one, the two exhibitions promote the values of humility and self-sacrifice.  For humility, the exhibits teaches that when society denies the full complement of civil rights to one person or group, the full complement of civil rights for all is in jeopardy.  For self-sacrifice, the exhibitions encourage individuals to be upstanders, not bystanders, speaking up in difficult situations about social injustice and showing courage in the face of personal peril.  For tenet five, the exhibition promises to spark community dialogue about: how structural racism continues to plague the Chicago region, resulting in persistent social and economic problems; and how work remains across the region to integrate fully the LGBTQ community into larger society.  Together, the exhibitions provide a regional solution to a regional challenge.

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Tenet 3

Developing Individual Self-Esteem and Dignity

Developing within individuals, especially youth from under-served and/or under-resourced communities, a sense of self-esteem and dignity.

Upwardly Global

The problem being addressed: Today in the United States there are nearly 2 million college-educated immigrants who are either unemployed or underemployed in low-skill, low-wage jobs.
While this community is highly skilled and legally able to work, services to connect these individuals to successful companies with long term growth potential are limited. Many of these individuals could benefit from simple soft-skills training which helps them secure roles that utilize their valuable skills and change the economic trajectory of their families. There is a pronounced lack of culturally-competent services tailored to meet the unique needs of this community of job seekers and as a result, they often fall through the cracks as they take "survival jobs" that do not make use of their valuable skills, and do not provide economic opportunity or mobility.
Immigrant and refugee communities are additionally vulnerable under the circumstances created by COVID-19. In fact, newcomers are disproportionately suffering from the economic fall-out of
the pandemic. As the effects of the virus reveal systemic inequities impacting immigrant workers
and their families, it is vital to ensure that this community has access to the resources and support needed to make the recovery process one that is equitable and universal – and to ensure that they can contribute their incredible skills and talent that this country needs to bolster the United States economy and workforce.
Program Description: Upwardly Global aims to dismantle the cultural and systemic barriers to economic opportunity that these communities face and to facilitate their access to gainful professional employment. Upwardly Global provides these communities with individualized coaching, essential soft skills, resume building, and professional networking opportunities. Upwardly Global also helps individuals access in-demand reskilling/upskilling opportunities. The organization focuses on high demand areas like engineering, cloud computing, data science, Artificial Intelligence, healthcare, and education. Upwardly Global is proud to note that job seekers who have gone through their program in Chicago earn an average annual salary of over $48,000 upon placement, which is a family-supporting wage that represents an average income increase of $37,000.
Today, within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Upwardly Global via virtual networking will prioritize creating community for job seekers as a mechanism to combat isolation. The agency invests in its volunteer infrastructure and partners with Chicago employers, such as Accenture, BMO Harris, and LinkedIn, to support job seeker efforts to build out networks and social capital. Upwardly Global also increases opportunities for licensing/credentialing and upskilling job seekers, so that they are more employable once there is an economic rebound post-COVID-19.
Connection to Values:  Upwardly Global is focused on ensuring that Chicago’s immigrant and refugee communities have the tools, resources, and support systems needed to lift themselves out of poverty and into gainful employment and upward economic mobility. Importantly Upwardly Global’s program is focused on ensuring that job seekers find employment that not only allows them to “survive” but that allows them to thrive in the long-term. Clients of Upwardly Global are specifically placed in roles that put them on a sustainable trajectory to career advancement and permanent integration. Therefore, Upwardly Global aligns with promoting industry and self-sufficiency. The organization also aligns with self-esteem and dignity, as it focuses on developing skills and securing jobs for immigrants and refugees, allowing them to have the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and earn a living wage in fulfilling professional careers.

Amount of grant


Tenet 4

Encouraging Vigorous Athletic Activity

Encouraging vigorous athletic activity, leading to physical health and/or spiritual well-being.

Strategy for Access

The problem being addressed:            For years, Chicago’s differently-abled communities have faced a lack of accessible physical fitness facilities and programs.  This persistent problem takes many forms, including a lack of information on how to adapt fitness equipment and programs to the needs of differently-abled people, along with preconceptions about the interest and willingness of differently-abled individuals to partake of physical activity.  Exacerbated by the closure of fitness facilities during the pandemic, these challenges have led to limited awareness among the differently-abled of appropriate programs accessible and available to them and their community, resulting in sedentary lifestyles that cause higher than normal rates of chronic illness, obesity, weakened immune systems, mental health issues, cardiovascular illness, and morbidity.
Program Description:             Strategy for Access has created a video series called “Fitness with Friends,” shown on social media and Community Area Network Television, that will feature classes showcasing programs and exercises that are fun, inclusive, and accessible, such as dance, tai chi, yoga and chair yoga, strength training, mindful movement, rumba, cardio, and core workouts.  Interviews with instructors and fitness experts will emphasize for viewers the importance of exercise and physical activity to the health and well-being of all, including differently-abled people.  By providing a stipend to these instructors and experts appearing in the videos, Strategy for Access hopes to help another industry struggling during the pandemic, simultaneously encouraging that industry to make its athletic and recreational facilities more accessible to all, and encouraging clientele from differently-abled communities to become more physically active.
Connection to Values:  By creating and broadcasting the Fitness with Friends series, Strategy for Access connects broadly with several tenets of the Values Statement, including relieving human suffering by helping youth with physical disabilities and addressing the concerns of the elderly, developing self-esteem and dignity, especially among youth from underserved and under-resourced communities, and forging a regional solution to a regional challenge.  But in particular, the Fitness with Friends program resonates most strongly with tenet four, encouraging vigorous athletic activity, leading to physical health and/or spiritual well-being.

Amount of grant


Tenet 5

Developing Regional Solutions to Chicago's Regional Challenges

Developing regional solutions to Chicago’s regional challenges, thereby protecting and/or improving the quality of life for all its citizens.

Smithsonian National Museum of American Indian

The problem being addressed: Educational institutions nationwide have rarely focused on the strong, rich history of indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere. Indigenous people have made world-changing achievements and their history is woven very deeply within the history of the Western Hemisphere. An easily identifiable example of this oversight is the annual Thanksgiving Day Holiday. The First Thanksgiving is portrayed as an overly congenial gathering that is meant to be a part of colonial history. Many aspects of Native Americans, their culture, practices and history are important to Thanksgiving; however that information is rarely taught in schools.
Program Description: The National Museum of American Indian is devoted to changing the way Americans learn about Native Nations as well as Thanksgiving. NMAI developed new educational resources that provide a more complete and accurate narrative of Thanksgiving; including the significant culture and history of Native Americans, and their devotion to giving thanks, which is deeply rooted in their practices. NMAI developed an online teaching module and resource packets for educators that focus on sharing the history of Thanksgiving through the lens of the Native American experience. NMAI partners with the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indians at the Newberry Library and with The Field Museum on a collaborative outreach effort to introduce Chicago teachers to its curriculum.  
Connection to Values: The City of Chicago has a complicated history with the original tribes that lived in the area. A variety of Native American tribes called the Chicagoland area home for hundreds of years. The city’s name comes from the Algonquin word “Checagou” which references the wild leeks that grew on the shores of Lake Michigan. Violent conflict and racial discrimination continued through the 20th Century. Today, Chicago has the third largest urban Native American population in the United States with more than 65,000 Native Americans in the greater metropolitan area. Given the gap in education that NMAI is addressing and the opportunity the organization is providing for Native youth to see themselves in their nations’ and tribes’ histories, this project aligns with the Genius Trust tenet of developing regional solutions to Chicago’s regional challenges, thereby protecting and improving the quality of life for all its citizens.  

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Joint Grantees

Tenet 1, 2, and 3

Promoting "THISS," relieving human suffering, and fostering self-esteem and dignity

Chicago High School for the Arts Logo

The Chicago High School for the Arts

The problem being addressed:            In its formative years, the board of directors for The Chicago High School for the Arts (“ChiArts”) oversaw and conducted fundraising, working with the advice and counsel of professional consultants, supplemented by a barebones development staff.  Ready to enter the next stage of institutional advancement, ChiArts needs to transition fully from a board-led and -administered fundraising model to one that management designs, leads, and executes.  To achieve this transition successfully, ChiArts must restructure staff roles and expand the development and related departments.
Program Description:             ChiArts proposed unifying its separate market, communications, and fundraising functions in a single advancement department.  Staffing this new department would be a director, a full-time marketing associate, and a part-time earned revenue coordinator; because current staff may move into these new positions, some will require professional development opportunities to allow them to assume new and enhanced responsibilities.  The overarching goal of the restructuring will be the growth of contributed and earned revenue streams, with a focus on the latter, which promises many opportunities for improvement through rental of ChiArts’ new, permanent home and fees for student performances.
Connection to Values:  By restructuring and expanding its development department, ChiArts promotes and reflects the Values of organizational thrift, humility, industry, and self-sufficiency in multiple ways.  Thrift: by reorganizing the development department and by diversifying and expanding all revenue streams, ChiArts will become more efficient at fundraising, reducing the cost of grant acquisition and thereby increasing available funds for carrying out its primary mission.  Humility: by acknowledging that the time had arrived to begin the hard work of transitioning fundraising from a governance to a management role, the board of directors and management courageously set aside self-interest and recognized that, as a team, they needed to embark on the next stage of organization growth.  Humility and Industry:  by being open to increasing their skill sets through professional development training, staff reflects humility through the acknowledgment of their need for improvement as fundraisers and administrators and industry by participating in that training.  Self-sufficiency: by identifying and enhancing all revenue streams, especially earned revenue, ChiArts will no longer be overly dependent on one income source, a small set of donors, limited in number, who have been generous with their significant resources to create and launch Chicago’s first public school for the arts.

Amount of grant


Tenet 1 and 3

Promoting "THISS"

Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera

Problem being addressed:   LO’s board and senior management identified a structural deficit that in the long term threatened the financial viability of the organization.  Structural deficits occur when there is an underlying and ongoing imbalance between revenue and expense.  In an effort to manage costs and increase earned revenue, LO launched the Breaking New Ground capital campaign, which included raising funds for stage improvements, with an ambitious $16 million, five-year goal.  The Breaking New Ground campaign enables LO supporters to make an immediate impact on backstage capabilities at the Civic Opera House and ensure that LO’s current time-consuming, physically demanding, and expensive processes are replaced by efficiency, safety, and fiscal responsibility.
Project description:  For the first time since purchasing the Civic Opera House in the mid-1990s, LO undertook significant, permanent renovations to the stage and backstage equipment.  Generally, The Morse and Genius Trusts do not support capital endeavors; however, securing the funds necessary to purchase and install a turntable reduced investing each year in labor costs and enabled LO to collaborate with more technically advanced opera companies, thereby increasing earned revenue opportunities.
Connection to Values:  Modernizing stage equipment through the campaign allowed LO to continue producing new and revived major productions of the highest caliber and created innovative and relevant opera experiences that attracted broad and diverse artists, audiences, and Board of Directors prospects, thereby promoting the values of organizational thrift, humility, industry, and self-sufficiency.

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Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust

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