With Childhood Autism Diagnoses on the Rise, One Chicago Funder Steps Up

Earlier this year, we looked into how one Chicago-area foundation has been supporting local adults with autism.

Related: Can a Coleman Foundation Grant Help Autistic Adults Get Jobs?

Well, more recently, the Coleman Foundation has gone to bat for autistic kids. Autism diagnoses are constantly on the rise, and a recent CDC report found that one in 50 kids between six and 17 years old has some type of autism. So let’s look a little closer at Coleman’s autism support and how it’s impacting families and nonprofits in Greater Chicagoland.

Coleman recently committed a $500,000 matching grant to Little City, located in northwest suburban Chicago. The organization also has a Community Services Office in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood and over a dozen groups homes located throughout Cook and DuPage Counties. It serves over 400 developmentally disabled people today through vocational training, employment placement, foster care and adoption, home-based family support, health and wellness, recreation and therapeutic activities, community education, and art programs.

Matching Grants

The key thing to note here is that Coleman’s grant was a matching grant. These types of grants tend to be favorites of small-to-midsize foundations that are highly focused on a particular cause but might not yet have the resources to drop millions of dollars on a one-time grant. 

Capital Support

Coleman’s $500,000 is going toward a capital campaign to construct a group home for autistic kids. Lots of funders shy away from capital support, but the Coleman Foundation embraces it. However, it should be noted that most of the 2015 grants so far have not been matching grants. Most other Coleman funding falls in line with program support.

Focus on Kids & Youth

Last year, Coleman gave $125,000 to Have Dreams, a program to train young adults with autism in the manufacturing industry. The foundation also gave $47,500 to the Julie & Michael Tracy Family Foundation for staffing support at a local urban farming vocational program for young people with autism and developmental disabilities.

And children with autism aren’t the only kids that Coleman has been supporting these days. The foundation has also recently funded the Center for Independence through Conductive Education, which provides motor skills training to kids with many types of physical disabilities at locations in Chicago, Countryside, and Lake Zurich.

Out to the Suburbs

Unlike many Chicago-area funders, Coleman has been putting a high priority on the suburbs just as much (or more than) the city lately. Recent 2015 developmental disability grants went to nonprofits in Highwood, Blue Island, Arlington Heights, Palatine, and Zion.

Related: IP’s Profile of the Coleman Foundation’s Chicago Giving

Other Coleman Giving

Although the Coleman Foundation is known as one of the most locally focused funders of developmental disabilities in the area, it also funds a few other causes on a smaller scale.

Recent 2015 Coleman grants for education and entrepreneurship include $50,000 to the Chicago Artists’ Coalition for a self-employment education program and $200,000 to DePaul University to expand an entrepreneurship center there. Within the foundation’s health and rehabilitation portfolio, 2015 grants were awarded to the Northfield-based College of American Pathologists Foundation, the Chicago-based Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the University of Chicago Medicine.

To submit a letter of inquiry for review at the board’s quarterly board meetings, check out the foundation’s How to Apply page. You can also keep up with recent happenings on the foundation’s blog.