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About The CAFE Group

Founded by philanthropists Liz and Don Thompson in 2014, The CAFE Group stands as a beacon of innovation and inclusivity in philanthropy. We are deeply committed to empowering leaders of color, valuing their unique insights and the vital roles they play in their communities. Our approach includes offering significant mentorship, expansive networking opportunities, and transformative funding through initiatives like the LEAD Internship program and the 1954 Project.

Our vision extends beyond financial support—we are cultivating a new generation of social impact leaders. By integrating diverse voices and experiences, we are setting new standards for how philanthropy and education can uplift everyone.

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Meet Liz & Don Thompson

Cleveland Avenue is where it all began for our founders, Liz and Don Thompson.

They grew up on the Near North Chicago street of that name—Liz in the Cabrini Green housing development and Don just four blocks north. The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education Group, our full name, acknowledges the past while constantly looking ahead to an impactful and limitless future.

Deepening Our Impact

At The CAFE Group, our commitment to education innovation and philanthropy is the heartbeat of our mission. The 1954 Project and the LEAD Internship program epitomize our dedication—each born from our fundamental desire to champion incredible leaders and catalyze change. Discover how these initiatives are truly at the core of what we do, and join us in shaping the future.

Meet Our Team

Get to know the heartbeat of The CAFE Group—the small but mighty team dedicated to transforming educational philanthropy for today and future generations, with a focus on amplifying the impact of leaders of color. Committed, values-driven, and fueled by love, we're passionate about elevating the influence of leaders of color, fostering equity, and creating a more just world for all.

Together, we're shaping the future of educational philanthropy—one initiative, one innovation at a time.

Board Members


Get Engaged.

We'd love for you to be part of our community! Join us as we build more inclusive and effective models of support and innovation. Whether through our programs, our newsletter, or our events, together, we can create a brighter, more equitable future for all.

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