Three Tips for Applying for an Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation Grant

The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation supports a wide range of arts organizations in the Chicago metropolitan area, including dance, theater, music, radio, and television. This is a great foundation for both large and small arts organizations in the city and suburbs to keep on their radar -- especially given that unsolicited grant proposals are welcome (Read Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation: Chicago Grants).

There are four annual proposal deadlines at the Cheney Foundation, based on whether you’re applying for a grant in museums and literary arts, music, dramatic arts, or dance. Here are three tips to keep in mind if you’re considering applying for a Cheney grant.

Focus on Your Proposal on Performance and Presentation

The Cheney Foundation’s grantmaking focus is almost exclusively on artistic achievement in presentation or performance. So this is not the foundation to contact with an arts education or arts community outreach program proposal.  Historically, the bulk of grants have gone to musical performance organizations, theater and dance companies, and historical societies and museums. For a list of recent grantees, check out the foundation’s 2012 Form 990PF.

Ask for Less than $40,000

Although the Cheney Foundation doesn’t specify an upper limit for awarded grants, almost all recent grantees have received $40,000 or less. The foundation gave out just over a million dollars in total grants and contributions in 2012, and 2013 data hasn’t yet been publicly released. Cheney did give a couple grants that topped $40,000, but these were made to large established organizations, like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Smaller, lesser-known arts organizations should aim for about $20,000.

Call or Email Elisabeth Geraghty to Discuss Your Project

Head over to the Cheney Foundation’s Grant Guidelines and Application page to download an application form. This form is three pages long and requires a standard list of supporting documents. You are also invited to call, email, or send a letter in the mail to get the ball rolling. But in this initial communication, make sure you’re prepared to discuss your project budget and other projected sources of support.

All inquiries and proposals should be directed to: Ms. Elisabeth Geraghty, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, 120 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 1740, Chicago, IL 60603. She can be reached by phone at 312-782-1234 and by email at