UChicago Community Programs Accelerator welcomes 17 incoming South Side organizations and recognizes first graduates of Crown Family School Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program


The University of Chicago has welcomed 17 new nonprofit organizations selected to take part in its Community Programs Accelerator program this year, bringing the total number of organizations to be served to 37. Fourteen nonprofit professionals who have completed the inaugural Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program, a joint initiative of the Office of Civic Engagement and the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, have also been awarded their certificates. The selected nonprofit organizations and nonprofit professionals were recognized in a virtual event on March 12.

The Accelerator, an initiative of the Office of Civic Engagement, aims to equip both established and emerging community-based nonprofits and leaders with tools and resources to fulfill their unique missions. In 2021, the program will again provide customized capacity-building support and leverage a full range of the University’s institutional strengths and partnerships to strengthen nonprofits that are based in or directly serve the South Side. Support ranges from strategic planning and data collection to board development and marketing.

“This year has tested all of us but community-based nonprofit organizations on the South Side and the people they serve have faced particularly acute challenges,” Sharon Grant, the Accelerator’s new executive director says. “At the Community Programs Accelerator, the organizations we work with have risen to this difficult moment. It has been an honor to join the team at a time when there’s such a need for solid civic infrastructure. The new organizations joining us this year serve important roles across the South Side and beyond and we look forward to providing resources to help them build back our shared community even stronger.”

Grant and other University and program leaders also reflected on the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has posed for these nonprofit organizations and leaders and the often-vulnerable individuals they serve. Speakers at the event — including Grant, the University’s vice president of civic engagement and external affairs Derek Douglas, and Dean and Emily Klein Gidwitz

Professor of the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice Deborah Gorman-Smith —celebrated the participants’ resilience and ingenuity in adapting to unprecedented times.

New Core and Associates Level Organizations

The organizations that are joining or shifting to a different support level in the Accelerator’s program this year include:

Core Program Level

  • 100 Black Men of Chicago (based in Douglas)

Core level organizations receive $50,000 in funding along with intense, focused, and customized support for up to three years.

Previously, 100 Black Men of Chicago — which offers mentoring and development programming for young Black people and young Black men in particular — worked with the Accelerator at the Associates level. Being invited to join at the Core level was a pleasant surprise, 100 Black Men’s Board president Carl Tutt, Jr. says, but he’s confident his organization is up for the challenge.

Since 100 Black Men of Chicago started working with the Accelerator, Tutt says the program has helped his team navigate their search for a new executive director, develop their board, and approach succession planning to identify future leaders. Now with a new executive director in place and an even deeper level of support from the Accelerator, Tutt says the organization will look to establish a physical headquarters for mentoring and administrative meetings, hire support staff, and otherwise expand their programming and impact.

“What I really appreciated about CPA is that when we became an Associate within the program they asked us what did we want? What are we looking for?” Tutt said. “We want to be forward thinking so it's not just about what does 2021 or the next two or three years look like, it’s what is 100 Black Men in Chicago going to look like in the year 2030? What type of support do we want to provide to the community and how are we going to help the city thrive?”

Associates Program Level

  • Ayodele Drum & Dance (based across the South Side)
  • Imani Community Development Corporation (based in South Shore)
  • Ring of Hope (based in Greater Grand Crossing)
  • Free Lunch Academy (based in South Shore)
  • Woodlawn Restorative Justice Hub (based in Woodlawn)

The Chance Center, based in Greater Grand Crossing, will also return as an Associates level organization.

Associates level organizations receive individualized organizational and technical support from consultants and Accelerator staff-supervised University graduate students over the course of a year.

The Accelerator will additionally support 27 organizations designated as Special Projects in 2021. These groups will receive discrete technical assistance from staff and students to address specific issues or projects over the course of up to two academic quarters.

Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program

Launched in 2019, the free, two-year Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program was designed to equip early to mid-stage nonprofit professionals working on Chicago’s South Side to create, grow, and operate sustainable, effective community-based organizations and develop a strong network of peers who are engaged in improving the quality of life in Chicago’s neighborhoods.

“This inaugural cohort competed for a place in the program, completed a range of management workshops, and are ready to take their nonprofits to a new level,” Dean and Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor of the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice Deborah Gorman-Smith said. “I congratulate these professionals for their commitment to the Nonprofit Management Certificate program during a very challenging year. They all are making real impact in their organizations, and we applaud them for making a lasting difference in their communities.”

Launched in 2014, the University’s Community Programs Accelerator has helped develop and strengthen the capacity of more than 160 community-focused nonprofit organizations to date that are based in or serve the nine South Side neighborhoods adjacent to the University.

Back to News
Related articles