In the zip codes 60301 through 60305, the Live & Give Survey of over 600 residents has revealed that in 2014 the dollar amount that is contributed out of Oak Park and River Forest is about twice the national average, or $5,986, as compared to the national average of $2,974 per person annually, said Kristin Vogen, CEO/president of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation.

“Another way we analyzed this is how much our residents gave away of their income, and we are at 4.3 percent,” she said, adding that preliminarily “it looks like about half of the contributions made by our residents, stay in our community.”

These are a few of the early views of the findings of the Live & Give Survey project, which was conducted by the Halverson Group on behalf of the Community Foundation of Oak Park and River Forest. 

All the results will be revealed to about 70 representatives from the nonprofit sector at 5 p.m. on April 30, said Henry Kranz, the foundation’s marketing director.

“The results are beginning to roll in from our Live & Give Survey. With it, we wanted to make sure that we would be able to convey the survey result to the organizations who, frankly, will be able to utilize the results of the survey fairly effectively,” said Kranz. “Community Bank has been very generous in supplying their lobby for the event. What we hope is to connect what is actually happening in charitable giving in Oak Park and River Forest with what the real needs of the nonprofit organizations are.”

Also on tap will be a drawing to give away a $5,000 Give Locally Grant, courtesy of the Community Foundation.

“The unrestricted grant recipient will have not had to write a grant application or anything. All they have to do is show up to win,” Vogen said.

Growing a good idea

The online survey project, says Vogen, was born out of research initiated by the Infant Welfare Society of Oak Park and River Forest. Pro bono, they had enlisted the talents of the Halverson Group to survey the society’s base of donors, past and present.

When Vogen became aware of the society’s survey effort, she suggested the research team broaden its impact by launching an “open” survey to begin looking at the giving habits and behaviors of anyone who lives in Oak Park and River Forest, who would be willing to complete an online survey around the topic of personal philanthropy. 

In March 2015, more than 600 local residents participated, solicited via social media, newspaper ads and postcards distributed at train stations and other area events.

“As a second step, the final sample was weighted to ensure the appropriate balance of age, gender, income and race according to local census numbers,” said Mindy Cultra, managing director of the Halverson Group. “We uncovered that the Oak Park River Forest community is a very giving and philanthropic community. And it’s not just happening in pockets; everyone gives in their own way and for their own reasons. 

“By digging deeper into the core motivations behind why people give, both locally and non, we’ve been able to pinpoint what’s most important to members of the community in terms of the time and money they give.” 

Vogen said she’s is pleased with the preliminary results and is anxious to dig deeper into the survey’s findings.

“There are not very many communities that have done this,” Vogen said. “We really appreciate everybody who took the time to complete the survey, and the input we received from them.

“It is something that will help us to be able to make sure that we are doing our job, and make sure that all of the nonprofit organizations around the community have a better understanding of a fundraising issue that is of interest to them.”

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Deb Quantock McCarey

Deb Quantock McCarey is an Illinois Press Association (IPA) award-winning freelance writer who has worked with Wednesday Journal Inc. since 1995, writing features and special sections for all its publications....