2020 Annual Report
From the Executive Director
I’m sure you’ve heard this a hundred times before, but 2020 was indeed a year like no other. For an organization like IEC that thrives on the pace of Illinois’ General Assembly and scoring big policy victories each session, the near halt of legislative business forced us to adapt.
However, despite the challenges, our team remained committed as ever to IEC’s mission of building power for people and the environment– and we still managed to put one of our best years in the books yet. When I think about what our team accomplished in 2020, I couldn’t be any prouder.
For starters, we shifted gears when the legislature packed up shop and used that time to do long-term policy and movement building. For months, we held public listening sessions and calls with our affiliates. Our program staff worked to incorporate feedback from those into the most comprehensive policy platform IEC has ever released. As a result, Illinois’ environmental movement leads together with a clearer voice on our most pressing challenges.
What’s more, our new platform includes a new Allyship plank, charting out guiding principles for IEC’s approach to supporting the work of our community level, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and environmental justice affiliates so we can be better allies and partners. I invite you to take a look at our robust new platform here.
Starting in March 2020, when the country went into lockdown, IEC responded by founding our Lunch & Learn series providing a place for our community to gather while also hearing from experts on a range of environmental issues. Since then, we’ve hosted about 50 Lunch & Learn webinars drawing droves of enviros of all stripes. Take a look back at some of the wonderfully diverse topics we covered here.
The last big in-person event we at IEC enjoyed before the pandemic was our Clean Energy Lobby Day– an IEC tradition where we normally bus hundreds of Illinoisans to Springfield to lobby their legislators on top environmental priorities. Then in November, we decided to try a Virtual Clean Energy Lobby Day. We had our largest turnout yet– around 1,000 Illinoisans signed up and we had meetings with over 80 legislators! There were other silver linings too. Holding our Lobby Day virtually made the event far more accessible. We had a much more diverse turnout, with working folks able to pop in on their lunch breaks, students between classes, and more.
Lobby Day was not the only bright spot; Team IEC grew. We added capacity to our policy team and were even able to help our partners at volunteer-led Clean Power Lake County hire two new team members through our pilot fiscal sponsorship program. Moreover, IEC could take all of this on because we were fortunate enough to have another strong year fiscally. During 2020, we were able to secure the funding needed to close 2020 on firm financial footing, putting us in the perfect position to continue growing our movement even more.
In 2020, we also saw our country continue to reckon with the centuries-old epidemic of racism. As an environmental organization with historically white leadership, IEC contemplated our role within the environmental and racial justice movements and how best to support anti-racist work as an umbrella organization for over 100 diverse groups. At the same time, we also saw environmental justice communities’ health and well-being bartered away by industry-friendly decision makers.
At the very start of the pandemic, Chicago’s Little Village was cloaked in dust from the demolition of a retired coal plant, which would later be replaced by a warehouse stocked with diesel polluting trucks. Around this same time, one government agency after another approved permits to move serial polluter, General Iron, from the white and wealthy Lincoln Park to the working-class, Black & Brown 10th ward. And beyond Chicago, the downstate town of Centreville has been struggling with sewage system backs up, leaving residents’ yards flooded with sewage. This disinvestment has caused unsafe living conditions and potentially compromised the drinking water of an entire community. Supporting the work of our community-based partners in combating environmental racism is a priority.
It’s an important time for IEC and the environmental community in Illinois, and we are cautiously optimistic. 2020 challenged us all. We saw many of our partners step up, be it in fighting environmental racism or in helping their community access food and resources during the lockdown. While there was no shortage of obstacles, our community showed up for one another during this unprecedented time, and we couldn’t be prouder to have such resilient members in our movement. We remain hopeful and will continue to push for Illinois’ environment and communities always.
As IEC grows stronger, so too does our community. If you have joined us by taking action, donating, attending a lobby day or volunteering in some way, please know how much we appreciate you.
A New Policy Platform
Our vision is to create an Illinois where informed decision makers successfully champion the environment and win.
How do we get there?
Following a series of public listening sessions and planning calls with our affiliates, IEC released our 2021 Revamped Policy Platform.
Starting in the summer of 2020, we held a series of statewide public virtual town halls—bringing in over 1,000 registrations—in the key issue areas: open spaces, clean water, food systems, clean energy, transportation & waste reduction. IEC additionally held a Community Council town hall open to community level organizations and activists statewide, which kickstarted IEC’s community council, a new collaborative effort bringing together place-based community organizations from across Illinois. Along with the town halls, we hosted a series of planning calls in each issue area with our affiliates. All of these calls and town halls helped to inform our revamped policy platform, which was ultimately approved by our affiliates and community council members.
WHO WE ARE
From the Board Presidents
During a year of unprecedented obstacles, the collaborations and active participation of our members and partners like you were refreshing highlights. Amidst that backdrop of obstacles, we’re proud of the Illinois Environmental Council and the IEC Education Fund’s accomplishments and progress protecting and ensuring a healthful environment for all Illinoisans.
The organizations’ growing staff ranks are to be commended for managing the shift to working from home, hosting Zoom gatherings for our partners and pivoting their work plans as legislative opportunities rapidly evolved. These professionals make a very positive impact on our movement.
A highlight from our perspective was IEC’s quick pivot in March, 2020 to hosting virtual Lunch and Learn sessions. This educational series stemmed from the idea that we had much to learn from each other and proved that there was an opportunity, even virtually, to build a stronger environmental movement. IEC members were pivotal to the initiative’s success, showing up in big numbers as participants, presenters and collaborators. This space not only provided a variety of educational content, but a space for IEC’s community to come together even though we could no longer physically be together.
Another highlight from 2020 was, despite the landscape of obstacles and barriers to IEC’s traditional fundraising tactics, the organization came out of the year on strong financial footing. Our financial outlook is secure as we look to 2021 and beyond. Our institutional funders have been resilient in their support of IEC’s conservation, clean energy, clean water and agriculture initiatives. Their support was complimented with that of our growing individual membership program and a profitable virtual gala which have ensured we have the resources to accomplish our goals.
Yes, a virtual gala! This past fall, we went virtual, and brought our community together to celebrate the leaders in our movement and the progress we made while raising funds through sponsorships, ticket sales and a uniquely IEC silent auction.
Overall, this past year we were happy to see the quick & creative responses IEC’s staff took to the pandemic, and the impressive advocacy work they managed to get done in spite of it. The year was certainly not without challenges for any of us, but we’re proud of how IEC and its staff managed this unprecedented year, and we look forward to seeing them take the resiliency, creativity & drive they showed in 2020 into 2021 and beyond.
Thank you for being a part of our success last year and, we hope, for years to come.
2020 IECEF Board of Directors
Anne McKibbin, President
Kelly Mazeski, Vice President
Delmar Gillus, Treasurer
Andrew Szwak, Secretary
IEC ELECTED DIRECTORS
IEC APPOINTED DIRECTORS/LEAD AFFILIATES
Jennifer Baader, Chicago Zoological Society
Elliot Brinkman, Prairie Rivers Network
Jessica Collingsworth, Union of Concerned Scientists
John Delurey, Vote Solar
Josh Ellis, Metropolitan Planning Council
Margaret Frisbie, Friends of the Chicago River
Christie Hicks, Environmental Defense Fund
J.C. Kibbey, Natural Resources Defense Council
Ashley Maybanks, The Nature Conservancy
David McEllis, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Kady McFadden, Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club
Anne McKibbin, Elevate
Pastor Scott Onque, Faith in Place
Andrew Szwak, Openlands
Brian Urbaszewski, Respiratory Health Association
2020 IEC/IECEF Staff
Jennifer Walling, Executive Director
Colleen Smith, Deputy Director
Eliot Clay, Agriculture & Water Programs Director
Tonyisha Harris, Clean Energy Programs Director
Lindsay Keeney, Conservation Director
Iyana Simba, Clean Water Policy Director
Gavin Taves, Energy Policy Director
DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS
Matt Steffen, Chief of Staff
Tucker Barry, Communications Director
Paloma Campillo, Communications Associate
Jeff Shelden, Development Director
Crystal Kern, Finance Director
Ben Roth, Researcher & Database Manager
Virtual Legislative Tours
In spite of the lockdown, our Agriculture and Conservation teams were able to keep up or longstanding legislator farm tours by taking them to Zoom, letting legislators learn about the greenspace in their district while still maintaining social distancing.
These tours are an important tradition at IEC and have proven crucial in helping legislators understand environmental issues by giving them the chance to get first-hand experience– or in this case a virtual experience!
Lunch & Learns
The pandemic put a damper on quite a bit of the work IEC is used to doing, but it also created a bit of an opportunity for our team to think outside the box about how we work toward IEC’s mission from home, and so, in 2020 our virtual Lunch & Learn Series was born. Since March 2020, we’ve hosted nearly 50 Lunch & Learn webinars, bringing in experts to discuss environmental topics ranging from growing your own food to investing without investing in fossil fuels to so many more.
In 2020 IEC reached an exciting new milestone– 100 organizational affiliates! We lean on our affiliates to understand the challenges, interests & work being done throughout Illinois’ many diverse communities, so with each new affiliate that joins us, our movement grows stronger. We additionally began a Community Council, which is made up of exclusively place-based community organizations, and offers free IEC membership to all of its members.
Thank you to our institutional funders!
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
Chicago-Area Environmental/Conservation Group Collaborative Tech
Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
Grand Victoria Foundation
Hunter Family Foundation
Just Transition Fund
Lumpkin Family Foundation
League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
Mississippi River Network
Food:Land:Opportunity, a collaboration between Kinship Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust that is funded by the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust
Thank you to our donors!
$500 - $999
Albert Ettinger and Sue Lannin
$250 - $499
Kevin and Linda O’Neill
Jeffrey & Joan Petertil
$100 - $249
Richard & Joanne Barsanti
Pat and Cass O’Keefe
Karen Long MacLeod
April & Noor Mahajan
Randall and Nancy Schietzelt
Thank you 2020 Environmental Leadership Gala Sponsors!
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Amanda Hanley Climate Fund
Barnes & Thornburg
Chicago Federation of Labor
Chicago Zoological Society
Climate Reality Project
Perri & Rick Courtheoux
Environmental Law & Policy Center
Environmental Defense Fund
Illinois American Water
Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting
Leinenweber Baroni & Daffada LLC
Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
Nekritz Amdor Consulting
National Parks Conservation Association
National Resources Defense Council
Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas
Plumbers Local 130 UA
Respiratory Health Association
Lauren Rosenthal & Howard Learner
The Nature Conservancy
Terri Treacy & Mike Wiant
George and Melissa Tully
Union of Concerned Scientists