Community Improvement, Capacity Building


Chicago, IL


Delta Institute collaborates with communities throughout the Midwest to solve complex environmental challenges. We envision a region in which all communities and landscapes thrive through an integrated approach to environmental, economic, and social challenges. Since our founding in 1998, Delta Institute has worked throughout the Midwest, in both urban and rural communities. We maximize our impact, and for every grant dollar we raise, we invest more than four times the amount of funding into our partner communities and geographies. Cumulatively, Delta has catalyzed more than $165 million in the Midwest during the past two decades. Delta Institute’s two primary drivers to enact environmental and economic change in our home region are centered on Thriving Landscapes and Communities.

Ruling Year


Chief Executive Officer

Mr. William H. Schleizer

Main Address

35 E Upper Wacker Dr Suite 1200

Chicago, IL 60601 USA







Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Community Improvement, Capacity Building N.E.C. (S99)

Energy Resources Conservation and Development (C35)

Land Resources Conservation (C34)

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

Environmental and economic issues hit communities—including rural areas—through disinvestment, inequity, and policy decisions. Disproportionate consequences have been borne by communities that have not historically had a voice, capacity, or resources to change or challenge the environmental and economic problems they face—and that have likely been imposed upon them. Delta Institute was founded to support and collaborate with communities to improve their environment, increase economic opportunity, and rebuild neighborhood vitality to promote the health and wellbeing of residents.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization







Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

Delta Institute envisions a region in which all communities and landscapes thrive through an integrated approach to environmental, economic, and social challenges. Since our founding in 1998 Delta Institute has worked toward this vision through collaboration with communities to solve complex environmental challenges. Cumulatively, Delta has invested more than $165 million in the Midwest during the past two decades. Delta Institute’s six Initiatives proactively addressing environmental and economic challenges are: 1. Through our Regenerative Food Systems efforts, Delta is cultivating a marketplace for healthier, better tasting, and sustainable food products. Our agricultural ecosystems will thrive only with a more diverse rotation of crops and livestock. While there are potentially many different species that will grow in our region, we lack markets, infrastructure, and knowledge that are needed to enable sectoral growth and landscape regeneration. Varieties of wheat, rye, oats, barley, dry beans, and more species were once commonplace in the region, but have been pushed aside as corn and soybeans have dominated the landscape. In order to reintroduce this diversity, we first need to create demand in the marketplace. We are working across the agricultural value chain to characterize how new infrastructure could help to link farmers and the diverse rotations of crops they grow to population centers. 2. The Midwestern economy is driven by agriculture, and our Land Stewardship services help farmers preserve their greatest resource: their land. Delta Institute will develop a suite of policies and programs that incentivize long-term investment in conservation practices based on land ownership attributes. We are creating tools to assist land trusts in taking advantage of existing programs to maximize stewardship activities along with developing a policy action plan to gain access to other programs and funding systems not currently available to practitioners. 3. Our Resilient Communities work ranges from monitoring air quality in Chicago neighborhoods to cleaning up contaminated land in numerous towns. Delta works with communities to remediate vacant, polluted lands through phytoremediation to then spur more sustainable redevelopment. A key component of our brownfields work involves Delta equipping communities with the tools they need as they redevelop closed—or closing—coal power plants. 4. Waste Reduction is leading efforts for recycling, reuse, and salvage—while creating economic development, new jobs, and diverting tons of materials from landfill. 5. Delta’s Sustainable Buildings work helps preserve our landmark buildings making them more efficient and vibrant places to work and visit. 6. Through Green Infrastructure Delta is advancing proactive stormwater management. In our deliberate project work, Delta is advancing proactive stormwater management through green design (such as permeable pavement, bioswales, and stormwater tree planting).

The Midwest is home, for you and for Delta Institute. It’s our focus, our reason to exist. We envision a region in which all communities and landscapes thrive through an integrated approach to environmental, economic, and social challenges. Our work takes us to cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Milwaukee; to communities ranging from Ottawa, Illinois, Hobart and Gary, Indiana, to East Troy, Wisconsin; and to Great Lakes coastal towns like Benton Harbor and Sebewaing, Michigan. Since our founding in 1998, Delta Institute has used its technical, planning, and engagement expertise to successfully equip communities across the Midwest to tackle challenges like brownfield redevelopment, coal community transition, and poor air quality.

Delta Institute has more than 20 years of experience developing innovative models to support working lands conservation, and in recent years, Delta has explored how similar approaches might provide long-term, sustainable change in our regional (with national implications) food chain. This work has resulted in broad partnerships, improved decision support systems, and funding mechanisms. Delta manages grant-supported work within the parameters outlined in our Quality and Environment Management System (QEMS), which provides a framework for management of documents, communications, and finances, enabling Delta to complete projects on time and within grant parameters. Delta Institute also has the financial management systems in place to comply with federal and private foundation grant requirements. Over the last 5 years, Delta has invested in state-of-the-art project management and financial tools to ensure transparency and accountability for organizational operations.

Delta's diverse portfolio of work creates impact that is both measurable and immeasurable. Many of our projects deliver impact that can be measured in terms of tons of waste diverted and dollars saved or made. Many more projects create a ripple effect of impact that empowers communities with new tools, helps government agencies implement impactful solutions, makes businesses more sustainable, and ensures that the Midwest region is more resilient in the face of climate change. In May 2018, Delta finalized a robust strategic plan that encompasses all organizational goal-setting and subsequent action to be undertaken from 2018 through 2023. The Strategic Plan and its implementation framework are utilized as the foundation for all of Delta’s planning, budgeting, forecasting, and evaluation processes. Staff utilizes the plan to create annual work plans and budgets for our six Initiatives. These specific metrics that evaluate adherence and fidelity to our organizational impact model and its effectiveness, including: 1. Number of stakeholders defining problems and brainstorming solutions 2. Number of local stakeholders /constituents /partners creating and piloting efforts 3. Amount of new financial resources invested by public agencies and private foundations for piloting by Delta 4. Number of local barriers overcome to allow implementation 5. Number of resources and tools built to overcome barriers 6. Number of local communities participating actively in efforts 7. Number of practitioners sharing, training, and adapting tools or new models 8. Number of sites replicating, adapting, and using new solutions 9. Amount of new financial resources committed and invested by public agencies/private foundations for evolving and spreading implementation 10. Number of policy or practice changes to Delta supported initiatives 11. Number of private sector organizations engaging in Delta supported initiatives 12. Number mentions in the mainstream media of Delta supported initiatives

As part of our Resilient Communities initiative, Delta launched a multi-year air quality monitoring initiative called Shared Air, Shared Action in four Chicago neighborhoods with disproportionately poor environmental quality. Partnering with community-based organizations and public health groups, our work will strengthen their communal voice on the quality of their air. Delta assists communities with vacant land redevelopment, which includes polluted properties called brownfields. We identify, prioritize and evaluate land for revitalization by assessing economic, environmental and market factors through the lens of community needs. For example, we provided technical assistance to the non-profit Grow Greater Englewood in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood to cleanup and redevelop an elevated rail line as an edible garden. Through substantial partnership arrangement with the Wallace Center at Winrock International and their Pasture Project initiative, Delta's Regenerative Food Systems work is seeking to scale the grass-fed beef and dairy sector throughout Illinois through a regenerative lens. Four years ago, Delta Institute helped launch the Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC) as part of our Regenerative Food Systems initiative area. The AGC is a group of diverse collaborators that are working to build demand for small-batch artisan grains in Chicago and the Midwest. Delta has partnered with Hobart and Michigan City, Indiana to implement green infrastructure installations throughout the cities as part of our Green Infrastructure initiative. Delta assisted with grant and contractor procurement and project management. The four installations collectively will provide an additional 800,000 gallons of stormwater management capacity, which minimizes flooding risks and prevents pollutants from entering Lake Michigan. As part of our strengthening secondary markets for reclaimed materials, Delta has successfully implemented many waste reduction and deconstruction projects to build the capacity of our municipal, county, regional, and corporate partners to manage their waste better and more effectively. This includes several reports and resources, including a market analysis for the City of St. Louis on demolition and deconstruction opportunities, and a municipal waste resource kit to decrease the disposal rate of reusable materials. Over the past year, as part of our Land Stewardship efforts, Delta has worked with farmers near Allegan, Michigan to implement conservation practices on over 800 acres, reducing 137 tons of sediment and 535 pounds of phosphorus from entering the Kalamazoo River. Additionally, over 100 practitioners, including farmers, land trusts, NGOs, and local/state/federal government agencies use the tools and models developed by Delta to improve environmental outcomes throughout the Midwest.

External Reviews



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? This organization has voluntarily shared information to answer this important question and to support sector-wide learning. GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/08/2019


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & Ethnicity
Gender Identity
Male, Not Transgender (Cisgender)
Sexual Orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability Status
Person without a disability

Race & Ethnicity

Gender Identity

Sexual Orientation