The grant from the affiliate of New York-based Citigroup amounts to almost 30% of Working Credit’s 2022 budget, though it will be spread out over two years, says Ricki Lowitz, co-CEO. It will be used to expand credit education and counseling, providing an alternative to “credit repair, a very predatory industry,” she says.
Elevate, founded in 2000, installs solar panels on the South and West sides and seeks to preserve affordable housing by upgrading heating and cooling systems, says CEO Anne Evens. The grant will allow Elevate, with an annual budget of $32 million, to expand its connections to Black and Latino contractors, she says. “We’re doing it more, and we’re doing it more equitably.”
In general, Citi’s funding will support low-income communities and communities of color by working to expand affordable housing and access; environmental sustainability; economic development; financial health and wellness; workforce readiness and high-quality jobs, the foundation says.
Besides advancing money, the foundation says it will provide a “community network through which these organizations can connect to learn from each other, share best practices and strengthen their roles as social change agents. As part of the initiative, the Citi Foundation is engaging longtime grantee Urban Institute to provide technical assistance to the cohort, helping to measure their impact and track their progress.”
These aren’t the first Citi grants Working Credit and Elevate have received, according to the nonprofit executives. Lowitz says the foundation was among its first funders in 2014. Among Working Credit’s partners are City Colleges of Chicago and National Louis University, where students learn how to protect credit reputations and “to do critical things for wealth building,” she says. The nonprofit also assists prison inmates returning to society.
Evens says Citi’s previous awards to Elevate were program-oriented. This time, the grant is for general operation support, a move she described as a vote of confidence in Elevate’s work and management skills. It has 160 employees.
In a release, the foundation said it provided $40 million from 2015 to 2019 in multiyear, unrestricted funding to 72 recipients, “helping to place over 45,000 people in affordable housing, train over 33,000 people for employment, save over $10 million in energy costs, and expand over 12,000 small businesses.”
This story has been updated to correct the name of one of Working Credit’s partners to City Colleges of Chicago, not Community Colleges of Chicago.