Chicago Shakespeare Theater

The Challenge

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare Theater has redefined what a great American Shakespeare theater can be—a company that defies theatrical category.

The Theater planned a major campaign to support artistic enhancement and programming, an expanded endowment, and the construction of a third, highly flexible theater. Located on Chicago's Navy Pier, CST's campaign also aligned with part of the Pier's ambitious plan to become a global destination with world-class entertainment, dining, and educational attractions.

The Process

During the first phase of the campaign, the concept and rendering for the new theater had not yet been finalized, creating a need to think outside the box to message the case and develop tailored solicitation strategies for the earliest and largest supporters.

To overcome this, CST's leadership, development team, and volunteers presented a larger vision that donors could believe in, focusing on the impact of all campaign priorities rather than construction specifics, and found great success leveraging its bold plans and successful track record for innovation and excellence.

Throughout the initiative, our services included a campaign planning study, strategic oversight of fundraising, case development, leadership and major gift solicitation strategy, analytics, advising on staffing, and preparing for the public phase of the campaign.

"With Campbell & Company’s counsel, we have completed the largest comprehensive capital and endowment fundraising initiative in the Theater’s history. As a result, a first-of-its-kind flexible performing arts venue—The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare—expanded our artistic home to create a cultural campus at the center of Navy Pier. The endowment and artistic funds raised will allow artists to create increasingly complex and innovative projects; introduce students to the art of theatrical storytelling; and invite artists from around the world to make Chicago their stage. Our path to success was a long and circuitous one, and we could not imagine having taken that journey without the steadfast counsel of Edith Falk, Melissa Berliner, and the team at Campbell & Company."

-Brooke Flanagan, Managing Director for Advancement and External Affairs, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

The Impact

CST's Our City, Our Shakespeare effort exceeded its campaign goal of $55 million, raising $61.1 million—the largest fundraising effort ever undertaken by the Theater. Through the campaign, CST built organizational capacity, enhancing its ability to support the core pillars of its mission, and rallied a strong community of supporters to push the effort over the finish line.

The Yard, a revolutionary new flexible performance space, opened in 2017 and has hosted a wide range of performances, quickly becoming an iconic Chicago destination for culture and community. In addition to funding this capital piece of the project, the Theater raised an equal amount of endowment and artistic funding, giving strategic balance and weight to ambitions that are traditionally harder to fund.

Photo by: James Steinkamp

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