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Better Government Association

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Civil Rights, Crime & Law, Public & Societal Benefit, Public Interest Law, Voter Education & Registration, Voting Rights

Mission: The Better Government Association is a full-service watchdog organization. We’re shining a light on government in Illinois and holding public officials accountable. The BGA’s mission is to promote integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing waste, fraud and corruption, advocating effective public policy and information and engaging the public.

Results: In the past eight years the BGA has experienced a tremendous revitalization, expanding from two to twenty-two employees and growing the budget from $300,000 to $3.4 million. The BGA measures its progress and effectiveness through the number of investigations published, results and reforms prompted; policy initiatives passed; and people engaged. Here’s a look at the organization-wide numbers we’ve tracked since 2009: • 602 investigations with 25 media partners throughout the state • 156 reforms and results • $50 million in taxpayer savings • 16,000 people informed and engaged at BGA events • 8,810 calls/emails to lawmakers prompted • 51 legal actions • 35 journalism awards We use these measurements to track our progress and compare our results year to year.

Target demographics: promote integrity, transparency and accountability in government

Geographic areas served: the City of Chicago and State of Illinois

Programs: 1) Investigative Unit: Functioning as the heart of the BGA, the Investigative Unit includes a team of eight investigators and several freelance journalists, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chuck Neubauer. The team continuously investigates allegations of misconduct, corruption, fraud and mismanagement in Illinois. Since 2009, we’ve published 602 stories, news investigations and follow-up stories on our own and in collaboration with dozens of news operations around the state. So far our work has prompted 156 reforms and results across the state of Illinois, saving taxpayers an estimated $50 million. Over the past several years, the BGA has developed a high profile in the local media landscape. We collaborate with more than 25 media outlets and publish regular columns and investigations in newspapers. The BGA also makes regular television appearances, radio interviews and contributions to online media and reform sites. Our Investigative Team works closely with the following major media partners: Chicago Sun-Times, WBBM Newsradio, WMAY NewsTalk 970, The State Journal-Register, ABC7, FOX Chicago, CBS2 Chicago, NBC5 Chicago and WTTW. Our investigative work covers a range of issues including pension and salaries, taxes and spending, ethics and accountability, criminal justice, education, campaign finance, transportation, environment and health. Since 2009, the BGA has been honored with 35 awards including sixteen Lisagor Awards, two Edward R. Murrow Awards and two Emmy Awards. The BGA believes open and transparent government is vital to a healthy democracy. That’s why we take legal action to ensure our team of journalists gets the public documents they need to investigate an issue. In the past four years, the BGA has filed thousands of FOIA requests and taken 51 legal actions. 2) Policy Unit: The BGA’s Policy Unit monitors and analyzes policy proposals and researches best practices to inform and influence local and state decision making on public policies affecting the delivery of responsible and effective government. The Unit organizes and facilitates meetings with legislators, civic leaders and other stakeholders and regularly works in partnership with other organizations to advocate for good government and to inform and engage the public. 3) Civic Engagement Program: The BGA’s Civic Engagement Program deepens the discourse about civic issues and provides the public with a way to express needs and concerns to government officials. The Program helps constituents raise their voices to express informed opinions and exert influence regarding government-related services and decisions. We train individuals to obtain the facts, ask questions and hold public officials accountable. Since 2009 we’ve engaged with more than 16,000 people through Idea Forums, Watchdog Trainings & FOIA Clinics and Candid Conversations with prominent public figures.

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