Benefit Chicago was created in 2016 to mobilize funding for nonprofits and social enterprises with the potential to create impact in their communities in the Chicago region. These organizations lacked access to traditional financing because of a lack of collateral, the need for customized terms and/or perceived risk.
The fund's goal is to build wealth in or for communities through economic development, grow community assets, provide support for community-based entrepreneurs, create jobs that are accessible to community residents – particularly those for whom access to employment can be a challenge – and enhance job readiness and skills for those seeking to find, maintain, and advance in employment.
Powered by a deep philanthropic commitment, knowledge of the social sector in Chicago and long-standing impact investing experience, Benefit Chicago provides a new way for individuals, organizations and institutions that care about Chicago to invest for impact and make the region a better place for all.
Impact Story: AutonomyWorks
Little attention has been paid to the needs of autistic individuals once they leave the education system. Unless there is a change, experts estimate that 80% will be unemployed or employed in low-skill, low-wage jobs, at an estimated annual cost of $125 billion per year in the United States. But many individuals with autism excel at detailed, repetitive and structured tasks such as digital marketing and analytics and can be gainfully employed.
AutonomyWorks provides meaningful employment for adults with autism by contracting with national and international marketing organizations that need detail and task-oriented employees to effectively support their digital and online marketing efforts. These employment opportunities are well-suited for individuals with autism. The organization draws its employees from a wide range of social service agencies and the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services, and matches those possessing the needed core competencies with companies that recognize the unique value these individuals bring to the workplace.
Employees are paid competitive wages and receive occupational support, job-coaching and social and life skills training in the workplace. With a $600,000 loan from Benefit Chicago, AutonomyWorks is expanding their marketing and hiring. Over the next 10 years, more than 330 people will be employed, 140 of them a direct result of growth made possible by the loan.
The Praxis commitment
Praxis Mutual Funds supports organizations such as Benefit Chicago through investments in Calvert Impact, an impact-investing institution that helps people around the world through community development financing. It’s part of the Praxis commitment to place approximately 1% of each of its funds to benefit neighborhoods and individuals through community development investments.