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History of Donors Forum


An informal assembly of grantmakers called the Chicago Foundation Group meets to discuss the advantages of creating a network of funders.



The Chicago Foundation Group decides to incorporate as Donors Forum of Chicago.


The Board of Directors appoints Eleanor Petersen as President.


The Library is created as a resource center for local funders and nonprofits, and is designated a Cooperating Collection of The Foundation Center. Barbara Denemark Long is the first librarian.


Donors Forum’s Membership totals 47 at the end of the first year.



Members form special interest groups to discuss topics with fellow grantmakers. Member Issue Groups, as they are known today, continue to be an important Member resource.


The Library inherits the Foundation Center collection from the Newberry Library and begins to build it into the premier collection on philanthropy in the area.



The Library creates the first index of Member grants lists.



Forum, Donors Forum’s first quarterly newsletter, is published.



The Emergency Loan Fund is created to provide short-term, cash flow loans to nonprofit agencies. The Fund grows significantly and survives today as part of Lumity.


The Library Partners is program created; 107 nonprofits join by the end of the year.


The first Annual Luncheon is held.



The first editions of the Directory of Illinois Foundations and Members and Partners Directory are published.



Eleanor Petersen retires. The Board appoints Valerie S. Lies as the new President.



The Summer School for Professional Development is introduced. Donors Forum continues to provide grantmaker education today with the Grantmakers Institute and other special programs.


The Philanthropic Database (PhD) is created as a comprehensive, electronic Member grants list.



The Board of Directors adopts a policy of inclusiveness to emphasize its commitment to diversity.



The first issue of Forumnotes is published. This monthly newsletter replaces Forum.



The Library Partners Program is re-named the Forum Partners Program.



Donors Forum’s first web site is launched.



The Chicago Area Grant Application is introduced.



Donors Forum houses the newly formed Fund for Immigrants and Refugees, a collaboration of local grantmakers. Before its closure in 2002, it awards $6.8 million in grants to 66 nonprofits in the Chicago area.



Six Associate Members, a new membership category for professional advisors, join Donors Forum.


Launch of a public education campaign, The Nonprofits of Greater Chicago: Giving Voice to Your Heart.



Publication of Giving in Illinois, the first comprehensive report on philanthropic giving in the state. Giving in Illinois is now published every two years.



Establishment of Giving Greater Chicago (originally Greater Chicago Philanthropy Initiative). The project closes in 2003 after helping individual donors and their advisors make their philanthropy more effective and rewarding.


The Philanthropy Center at College of DuPage opens, bringing resources of the Library to the western suburbs.


Philanthropy Centers open at additional suburban locations in the coming years.



Donors Forum successfully promotes legislation to create the Charitable Advisory Council, a permanent body to advise the Attorney General on issues related to charities and charitable giving in Illinois.


Publication of Illinois Nonprofit Employment, the first report in a series representing the most comprehensive research about the nonprofit sector in the state. The remaining two reports in the series are published in 2003.



Illinois Funding Source, an online database of Illinois foundation and grants data, debuts.


Members and Partners receive New@DFC, Donors Forum’s first e-newsletter.


Donors Forum begins two new peer networks for funders in the suburbs.


Consideration of statewide growth begins.



The 1,000th Forum Partner joins Donors Forum.



Creation of the Preserving the Public Trust Task Force, charged with developing a set of guiding principles and best practices for nonprofit organizations in Illinois.


Launch of 30th Anniversary Legacy Project, a giving and volunteering curriculum for middle-school students.



Publication of the Illinois Nonprofit Principles and Best Practices, ten principles that address mission, governance, legal and regulatory compliance, and responsible stewardship of resources.



The Board of Directors approves the Statewide Growth Initiative to provide services to grantmakers and nonprofits across the state of Illinois.



Individual Giving in Illinois, a first-of-its-kind report which examines in detail grants made by the largest grantmakers in the state, is published.


The West Central Illinois Philanthropy Center opens in Quincy. All the Philanthropy Centers are designated as Cooperating Collections of The Foundation Center.


Our name is changed to Donors Forum, and our tagline changed to Strengthening Illinois philanthropy and the nonprofit community. Donors Forum is now a statewide organization.



Donors Forum publishes the Illinois Nonprofit Economy Report, which illustrates the vital role nonprofits play in the state’s economy.


Donors Forum creates special programs and resources to support nonprofits and grantmakers in the economic crisis.


The East Central Illinois Philanthropy Center opens in Effingham.



Donors Forum celebrates its 35th anniversary.


The South Metropolitan Philanthropy Center at Joliet Junior College opens. Donors Forum now has philanthropy centers in Effingham, Glen Ellyn, Grayslake, Joliet, Quincy, and Schaumburg.


Donors Forum continues support of grantmakers and nonprofits in the economic crisis, including resources and training to help nonprofits benefit from stimulus funding.


Donors Forum has 206 Members, 28 Associate Members, and more than 1,000 Forum Partners (June 5, 2009).



Donors Forum launched a new website and blog and began social media outreach. Donors Forum also received federal Stimulus funding for a two-year program of nonprofit capacity building.



Donors Forum conducted an extensive sustainability planning process that involved a review of the purpose and profitability of every aspect of our organization.



Donors Forum updated its mission and vision statement to more accurately reflect the organization, and plans for new and different ways for grantmakers, nonprofits, and advisors to connect, learn, and act together.