Fundraising Appeal FAQ

Q: Why does River North Residents Association exist?

A: Since 1997, RNRA’s mission has been to protect and enhance the quality of life in River North, with emphasis on public safety, responsible development and land use, improved infrastructure and green spaces, a well-managed hospitality sector, and family programs and other public events. As the only pure resident advocacy organization serving River North, RNRA works closely with homeowners associations and other residential properties, elected representatives, public safety officials, local businesses, and other stakeholders to effect positive change.

Q: In a typical year, how does RNRA have an impact?

A: Virtually every day, in large and small ways, RNRA helps to make a great neighborhood, even better.

  • RNRA reviews and recommends improvements to proposed developments to ensure that projects are designed and executed in a way that enhances the community and considers the needs of all stakeholders.
  • RNRA helps to facilitate dialogue between residents, CPD Officers and local venues, to reduce crime and ensure a well-managed hospitality sector.
  • RNRA advocates for improved infrastructure, amenities, and public green space.
  • RNRA designed and manages River North Clean Streets, a non-profit that helps to make our neighborhood cleaner, safer, and more beautiful, while creating life-changing opportunities for hundreds of disadvantaged Chicagoans.
  • Each year, RNRA plans and conducts a popular outdoor film program in Ward Park, seasonal events for local families, an annual meeting and reception hosted by Tao Chicago, and a multi-day, food and music festival on the riverfront.
  • Please click here to access our Testimonials page.

Q: What has RNRA been doing recently?

A: In the last couple of years, the association has been focused on key issues facing our neighborhood.

  • RNRA has ramped up its efforts to support law enforcement in response to unprecedented incidents of serious crime and social unrest.
  • When adult use cannabis was legalized in Illinois, RNRA took on a key role in vetting dispensary applicants, recommending operational improvements, and facilitating community review meetings.
  • After the city announced plans to bring a casino to Chicago, RNRA became the most prominent neighborhood association working with Aldermen Reilly and Hopkins to vigorously oppose the Bally’s Tribune casino development.
  • Since the City Council approved the proposal, RNRA has remained actively engaged in the effort to encourage changes to the plan in order to reduce negative impacts to the surrounding community, the citizens of Chicago, and the natural environment.

Q: How does the RNRA fund its programs and activities?

A: RNRA traditionally generates revenue in four primary channels: membership dues; local business sponsorships; small public events; and a large summer riverfront festival.

Q: Don’t membership dues cover most of the expenses?

A: RNRA’s annual membership dues are just $3 per household, or 25 cents/month. In an average year, this amounts to around 11% of operating revenue.

Q: Why doesn’t the organization raise membership dues?

A: Modest adjustments to membership dues and other fees are being considered, but one of our guiding principles is that our community is stronger when it speaks with one voice, so these costs have been kept intentionally low to reduce participation barriers and encourage community engagement.

Q: Where does the rest of the funding come from?

A: Approximately 9% comes from local business sponsorships and small public events. The remaining 80% of operating revenue has traditionally come from our large summer festival, which began 20 years ago as River North SummerFest, then evolved into the Taste of River North, and this year, into a new riverfront music festival called River North LIVE! These events have reliably enabled us to pay our bills and make reserve contributions every year, despite variable economic conditions and uncertain weather. The COVID 19 pandemic prevented us from holding most of our public events, including the summer festival, movies in the park, and our seasonal family programs, which has resulted in unavoidable net operating losses since 2019.

Q: What happened with the 2022 summer event?

A: Our beloved local restaurant community hadn’t yet sufficiently recovered from the lockdowns and subsequent staffing challenges to enable another large food-centric event, so our hope was that an evening-only, music-focused festival in an exciting new venue would be a successful formula for 2022. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of an experienced event management firm and a team of respected marketing professionals, River North LIVE! failed to attract a large audience or to generate anticipated revenue.

Q: What will change going forward?

A: We hope and expect that 2023 will be a more typical year and that RNRA will be able to resume the funding model that has served it so well since 1997. Of course, the organization’s leadership is exploring options to improve the summer event as well as leaving no stone unturned with respect to other revenue-generation opportunities.

Q: What does RNRA spend money on?

A: RNRA runs a very tight ship from a financial perspective. The largest annual operating expense is for the organization’s one indispensable staff member, our Executive Director, who, with the assistance of board members, committee chairs, and other volunteers, coordinates all the administrative, operational, and communications functions of the organization from home. We do not spend money on office space, additional personnel, or any other non-essential purpose. All resources support our mission.

Q: Are donations to River North Residents Association tax deductible? 

A: They will be if all goes according to plan. In Q4 2021, RNRA applied to transition from its current non-profit status of 501(c)(4) to its new status of 501(c)(3). Though the IRS and Illinois Attorney General are behind in their processing, both agencies have confirmed receipt of our materials and advised us to expect a disposition later this year. Our Certified Public Accountant has explained that once the application is approved, the new status will be effective as of the submission date in 2021, which would mean that all donations received this year would be tax deductible.

Q: If people can’t afford substantial contributions, are there other ways to help?

A: Donations in any amount are welcome and appreciated, but the organization also welcomes responsible, civic-minded people who want to help their community by volunteering. Just a few hours a month can make a big difference, and for those who wish to play a more significant role, volunteer work may eventually lead to a position on the leadership team. Go to RNRAChicago.org/Volunteer.

Q: How can local businesses get involved?

A: RNRA Sponsorship enables area businesses and organizations to promote their products and services to thousands of residents through our website, newsletters, film program, and the “My River North” mobile app. Details are at RNRAChicago.org/Become-a-Sponsor. Local business owners might also consider becoming “in-kind sponsors” by providing products or services that support our operations in exchange for promotional consideration. Email us to discuss the opportunity at info@RNRAChicago.org.

Q: What if this campaign is unsuccessful?

A: Regrettably, RNRA may be forced to suspend operations, depriving River North of one of the assets that make it unique; an active, inclusive, and influential community organization.


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