Forefront represents both grantmakers and nonprofits in Illinois, as well as their advisors and allies. The organization provides education, advocacy, and thought leadership, and facilitates collective action around issues that are important to their members and the sector.
Independent Sector recently welcomed back Forefront as a member and talked with Monique B. Jones, president and CEO, about their role in creating a united and thriving social impact sector in Illinois.
IS: What is your organization’s mission?
MJ: Forefront’s mission is to build a vibrant social impact sector for all the people of Illinois.
IS: Tell us about Forefront’s areas of interest, the communities you serve, and how your work helps to advance an equitable and healthy sector and nation where all people can thrive.
MJ: Forefront is Illinois’ statewide association representing both grantmakers and nonprofits. Our nonprofit members work in over 26 different issue areas across the state. Our grantmaker members include private foundations (such as family and independent foundations), public charities, corporations, donor-advised funds, charitable trusts, and individual philanthropists. We provide education, advocacy, and thought leadership, and facilitate collective action around issues that are important to our members and to the sector.
IS: What are Forefront’s core programs that support the community you serve and help strengthen the nonprofit sector?
MJ: Forefront makes a robust collection of programs and resources available to our community. Some of our core programs are:
- Racial Equity Collective, a Forefront led multi-sector collaboration of DEI leaders, nonprofit and private sector organizations, philanthropic funders, and legislators committed to creating sustainable systemic change that will address and counteract the myriad systemic inequities and divestments in the social impact sector in Illinois, both past and present.
- Mission Sustainability Initiative, a dedicated resource for helping nonprofits thrive by providing the resources for leaders to regularly and thoughtfully explore collaboration and partnership strategies with holistic support solutions like educational programming, community convening, vetted consultant lists, and opportunities to apply for funding.
- Forefront Library, established as a special library in 1973, the Forefront Library provides the Illinois social impact sector with the resources and services they need to power their missions through our professional librarians on staff.
IS: Independent Sector brings together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs that are working to achieve a racially just and healthy sector and nation where all people in the U.S. thrive. How does your work align with Independent Sector’s mission and our member organizations?
MJ: Forefront is dedicated to creating a united and thriving social impact sector that has a transformative impact on the wellbeing and economic security of communities, and that promotes racial equity across the state of Illinois. Our work is informed by three core commitments that enable Forefront to advance its missions and maximize our impact. These commitments are:
- Through high-quality and culturally competent programming, technical assistance, and strategic advocacy, Forefront expands its reach, support, and influence across Illinois’ social impact sector to address the greatest needs of its members.
- Forefront mobilizes a sector-wide response in Illinois to advance racial equity and create an environment in which BILPOC communities thrive.
- Forefront unites Illinois’ social impact sector to collaboratively address the most pressing issues of our time.
Forefront looks forward to our continued work together with Independent Sector to encourage mechanisms and structures that support the role of the nonprofit community in shaping federal policies. For instance, Forefront is among the endorsing organizations for the Nonprofit Stakeholders Engaging and Advancing Together (Nonprofit SEAT) Act.
IS: Independent Sector collaborates with individuals and the charitable community to create a racially just and healthy sector and nation. How does your work help to support or advance these objectives?
MJ: Forefront prioritizes diversity and equity when developing programming. We collaborate with other organizations in order to further advance our equity objectives within the sector. Specifically, Forefront’s Racial Equity Collective is wholly focused on creating sustainable systemic change and scaling racial equity infrastructure to fuel greater collaboration and more cohesive and strategic action throughout Illinois and beyond.
Header photo: Forefront President and CEO Monique B. Jones at the Forefront Annual Summit in October 2023.