Invest in inner-city school children through the Patrons Program

Inner-city school children need the best education possible to help them on the path towards becoming adults of character that make real contributions to our society.  Chicago's inner-city Catholic schools have been providing the best academic and character-based education in the city for many years.  These schools need your investment in order to continue with this mission for years to come. An investment not only in the tools of education such as textbooks and computers, but also investment in the business imperatives involved in operating a school such as enrollment, financial viability, etc.

The Big Shoulders Fund has been investing in inner-city Catholic schools and the children they serve for over twenty-five years.  Beginning in 2003, Big Shoulders initiated the Patrons Program to invest the talent and resources needed to sustain inner-city Catholic education.  The Patrons Program complements the other Big Shoulders programs by providing not only funding, but also the time and talent of committed Chicagoans who become directly involved in providing strategic planning and other advisory services to help the schools operate as thriving organizations.  Patrons work to achieve two key goals: enhancing the academic success of today's students while also improving the long-term prospects for the school to continue providing great education to needy children.

The Big Shoulders Fund is actively soliciting new partners to continue building this successful program.  For more information about the Patrons Program, to serve on an advisory committee, or to make a contribution, please contact:

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Who are Patrons?

A Patron can be a person, an organization, a company or a group of people that eagerly step up to the challenge of helping an inner-city Catholic school provide a values-based education for students and their families.
Patrons form a relationship with an individual school, and learn about the school and its environment while building strong, effective relationships with the school's leadership.  These relationships extend to the faculty, students and parents who make up the heart of the school's community.  These relationships enable the patron to effectively contribute their knowledge, contacts and other available resources to help the school thrive, grow and succeed.

People like you already have the business expertise, organizational skills and fundraising acumen to make a huge difference in one of our 93 schools.  Will you help Chicago's neediest children attain a better future by becoming a Patron?

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What does a Patron do?

The Patrons most important role is to help develop and implement a long-term business strategy for the school that identifies, prioritizes and addresses their school's challenges, opportunities and road to future success.  Specifically, Patrons work with the Principal, Pastor, faculty, parents and community to:

  • Support the school with a 3-year annual $100,000 investment in academic and technology enhancements, marketing, development, capital and other needs;
  • Improve the school's financial stability;
  • Help to create and implement a strategic business plan that addresses critical school needs and improves the school's stability and academic quality; and,
  • Build long-term relationships between the school, businesses, donors and the community.

The Patrons relationship provides a wonderful opportunity to not only create strategic plans, but to link the Patrons funding directly to the initiatives associated with these plans.  The impacts are real, for both current and future students.

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Can companies and foundations become Patrons?

The Big Shoulders Fund Patron Program also provides a way for companies and foundations to adopt an inner-city Chicago Catholic school.  Similar to individual Patrons, the company and/or its employees commit to $100,000 annually in funding for three years.  Employees have the opportunity to share the financial commitment as well as to offer their time and expertise by serving on the school's advisory board.

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Can Patrons get help to improve the school's situation?

Patrons not only can obtain support from the school's community, doing so is essential.  Most schools have or will be forming advisory boards comprised of individuals from the local community as well as from Chicago's business community.  Patrons can play an important role in forming these advisory boards, being active in board discussions and actions, acting as leaders, etc.  Patrons often recruit others who are willing to contribute their time and talent to schools and to focus on areas including:

  • Marketing;
  • Finance and accounting;
  • Fundraising;
  • Capital improvement; and
  • Technology.

The other resource available to Patrons and schools is the Big Shoulders Fund staff itself.  Big Shoulders works directly with the schools and Patrons to help address issues, share best practices, lend business expertise, etc.  The Big Shoulders Fund staff views itself not only as administering the Patrons Program, but as an integral and active team member in improving the school's situation.

Please see the following great examples of how Patrons work with the schools and their communities to address both tactical and strategic needs St. Ethelreda School and St. Malachy School.

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Are there other schools with Patrons?

Currently there are 63 Patron relationships among the 93 Big Shoulders Fund schools.  Click here  for a map showing which schools are blessed with existing Patron relationships.

Each Patron relationship is different, and is molded to fit the needs and talents of the individual schools and Patrons.  The Patrons and their Principals participate in two meetings per year where they share progress and ideas on improving enrollment, finances, etc.  Moreover, these meetings celebrate the schools and the progress being made by the Patrons and their Principals.  The Patrons Program has been very fortunate, as there is always much to celebrate.

Please see the following examples of other Patron relations St. Ann School, St. Angela School, St. Helen School and St. Therese Chinese Catholic School.

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What do others say about the Patrons Program?

Our Patrons Program is another innovative way in which we can shape our educational system through our partnerships with corporate and business leaders.

James J. O'Connor, Co-Chairman of the Board, Big Shoulders Fund

"I'm thrilled to have been involved with Big Shoulders and the Patrons Program for the past several years.  I encourage all Chicago business leaders, large and small, that have the means to participate.  The Patrons Program is unique, in that you get the chance to see the difference you are making every day.  I guarantee that anyone who participates will get more out of it than they put into it.  The rewards are immense for the entire Chicago community."

Michael Ferro, Founder, Chairman & CEO, Click Commerce, St. Matthias/Transfiguration Co-Patron

"Participating in the Patrons Program has allowed me to witness firsthand the tremendous sense of mission and dedication of the principals and teachers in the inner-city Catholic schools.  This has been surpassed only by the significant progress that I have seen made with a modest investment of time with these children."

Elizabeth Cole, Former Director, Investment Relations, Tribune Company, Academy of St. Benedict the African, Patron Advisory Board, Chairperson