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Park fundraising

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Meetings, seminars

June 25, Wednesday, 5:30 pm. Friends of the Parks has a seminar on how to use TIF funds for improvements in parks. 17 N. State St. Ste. 1450.

Cautious as parks supporters and councils are at the idea that communities should be bringing resources to do things in the parks, supported by our tax dollars, it's a fact of life. As inequitable as the process inevitably is, it can give communities (especially those living within 3 blocks or so of a park's boundary) an enlarged and less dependent role in getting what they need in their parks and in countering the growing push for central, bureaucratic control of parks. It is essential to focus on what is truly wanted, and to know the difference between a need and a want. This does not mean one should take "no" and "no money" for an answer when it comes to basic and safety maintenance and service, but parks groups can be inventive and creative. Do bear in mind that the park district is in law the owner and responsible, including in issues of liability.

At a fundraising seminar January 29, 2005, advisory councils learned that it is necessary that councils that have identified projects and intend to do fundraising in the year turn in a Letter of Intent (sample available) to Robert Steele, Community Outreach Manager, to start the process. Managing the process is the Intergovernmental Community Affairs (IGA) Office under Director of Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Judy Martinez. Real efforts are being made to coordinate planning and asking and to avoid duplication.

The main fundraising arm of the Park District is the Parkways Foundation. 312 743-4808. 541 N. Fairbanks Suite 850, 60611. Caution- they require annual contribution of $100 a year and interest accrued in an account kept by them is theirs.

From the February 2005 JPAC Newsletter:

Park district staff gave the procedure and gave advice for those who wish to raise money for facilities or projects in their park, so as to maximize effectiveness and communication and avoid duplication.... Several council presidents describe how their councils realized dreams for their parks. The large number of attendees from park councils citywide asked savvy questions of the panel of department heads and made it clear that since community fundraising is to be a fact of life, park advocates will hold Chicago Park District to standards for basic facilities and maintenance. All need o make clear distinctions between "needs" and "wants."


Fundraising "To Do" list from the seminar and sample of Letter of Intent

Sample Letter of Intent

Robert Steele [successor Erik Varela]
Community Outreach Manager
541 N. Fairbanks
Chicago, IL 60611

Mr. Steele,

The [ABC Advisory Council] has decided to embark upon a [renovation project] at [ABC Park]. In our [date] meeting, it was voted upon by the entire council to support this [project] . A copy of those minutes is provided for your record.

We have met with [ ], park supervisor at [park] to review this proposed project and requests the support of the Intergovernmental Community Affairs office to move this request to the next stage.

We do understand the cost of this project will require [the council] to fundraise and provide a substantial portion of the resources needed for this project. We are requesting a meeting with your office to review his project and make contact with the necessary personal at the Chicago Park District to begin the evaluation and planning process.

Please contact [ ] [at] to arrange this important meeting with your office.



New process and form for asking for a new playground or playground upgrade

We've just heard about this. You can inquire at Friends of the or email 312 857-2757. Or


Frequently asked questions

  1. How do we begin fundraising?
    Identify the type of project or program you would like to support in your park. Project may include Capital Improvements (interior or exterior), natural areas, gardens, programs or special events (movies, concerts, etc). Present the idea at the next advisory council meeting to gain support. Discuss the idea with the park supervisor to make sure that the idea is consistent with Chicago Park District plans for the future of the park.
  2. We have identified our project, what are our next steps?
    The Advisory Council must submit a letter of intent to the advisory council liaison in the Department of Intergovernmental and Community Affairs (IGCA). (Include contact, advisory council an park name, detailed description of the project, fundraising goal and plan, fundraising and project timelines, and support of the advisory council.)
    IGCA will conduct a review of the proposal with the support of Chicago Park District Departments. If approved, CPD will evaluate the need for department assistance to the advisory council. Should CPD determine a need for departmental assistance, it will be coordinated through IGCA.
  3. What happens with the funds we raise? Where do we deposit them?
    All funds raised for a particular project within the CPD are recorded in an account specifically created for that project. Funds may also be deposited into a private account held at Parkways Foundation.
    You may also hold funds in other private financial will need a copy of your organization's Tax Identification Number, articles of Incorporation and a letter of acknowledgement from the CPD confirming your status as an advisory council. You will be required to make a check payable to the CPD upon Capital construction completion.
    In order for donors to obtain a tax deduction for their contribution to your project you must be a registered 501 (C) 3 (not-for-profit) or they can make their contribution to a fiscal agent such as Parkways Foundation.
  4. What parameters should we be aware of while fundraising?
    It is important to have a written plan of action when fundraising and a designated point person to facilitate communication between CPD, contributors and the advisory council. Providing periodic updates to your council members and the IGCA liaison will be beneficial to your fundraising efforts.
  5. We met our fundraising goal for the project, now what?
    The Chicago Park District is eager to support ideas that have the sound public and financial support necessary to be implemented.
    Once all funding is in place, CPD staff will work with advisory councils to order and pay for supplies necessary to implement the project.


Park Fund providers and research links

Donors Forum.

Philanthropy Center of Chicago.,

Heartland Institute.

Local Initiatives Support Center.

Chicago McCormick Tribune Foundation.

Sara Lee Foundation.