Annual Letter ’14

January 2014

Dear Friends,

The Dewan Foundation made 37 grants in 2013.  Twenty-six grants supported programs that serve the poor and disadvantaged in the City of Chicago and nearby surrounding suburbs.  There were 11 grants made to U.S. non-profits that provide services to needy people overseas.   Grant spending totaled $ 212,946, the highest annual amount ever in the history of the Dewan Foundation.  A large matching grant to sustain a school and residence program for needy children in Blacktom Town in Liberia, Africa drove spending for the year.

We were able to support three new programs working overseas.  One will provide health promoter training to poor women in Lubango, Angola, the country’s second largest city.  Training community leaders, who then train friends and neighbors in necessary health practices, is a basic empowerment strategy that can lead to other social gains for people in poverty. The second grant will provide school support for disadvantaged students in the Department of Solala, Guatemala.  The third provides education and training support for children who have AIDS in a shelter outside San Pedro Sula, the main industrial city in Honduras.

Federal regulations require private foundations to make a minimum eligible charitable expenditure of approximately five percent of the value of its endowment annually.   If a foundation exceeds the minimum, the excess may be carried over for up to five years to satisfy the requirement in the future.  Like many family foundations, the Dewan Foundation regularly exceeds minimum spending.  In fact, the carry over from 2008-2012, that is spending in excess of the requirement, totaled over $439,000.  With record high grant spending in 2013, the Dewan Foundation will once again exceed the federal requirement by a substantial amount.

We are completely comfortable with an approach that maintains grant spending at a consistently higher level based on our positive relationships and the good performance of our grantees, as well as the judicious acceptance of new programs into our portfolio.  Anchoring our spending to a percent value of our endowment would subject us to the peaks and valleys in the value of our investments and the volatility of the financial markets.  We are all still painfully familiar with the experience of the financial crash of 2008.  We have no desire to subject our grantees to this type of volatility.  They value our steadfast support, and it is a source of pride for us to be their consistent partner.

It was a particularly challenging and frustrating year for our grant writing efforts.  Although our assistance generated eight awards and a total of $214,900 (a bit better than in 2012), we had expected a better outcome based on the large number of proposals and funding letters we prepared.  Some of our best prospects were not accepting proposals, there were a couple of noteworthy rejections from funders who had supported our grantees in the past, and efforts to generate interest among many new potential funders were unsuccessful.

The Dewan Foundation’s own experience in receiving inquiries and proposals is instructive in this regard.  We are only funding about one of every thirty-five organizations that seek our support for the first time.  It is a hugely competitive environment for grants that depends on networking as well as a high quality program and presentation.

We are perpetual optimists, however.  What else could we be when we have dedicated ourselves to the task of making the world a better place, especially for people on the margins of society?  Faith and hope propel us forward.  We are grateful for your interest and support of our efforts.


The Board of Directors

John and Susan Dewan Foundation