McCormick Foundation Partners with the Chicago Tribune for Children's Literacy

The McCormick Foundation is one of the most dedicated and consistent early education funders in the nation, but what grantseekers sometimes forget is that this grantmaker has multiple fund partners with their own unique focuses and guidelines. One of these fund partners is Chicago Tribune Charities, which recently made headlines for committing $60,000 to a national nonprofit called Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI).

This particular McCormick Foundation fund made a one-year grant commitment to support the Chicago Early Literacy Project for elementary schools in the Little Village neighborhood. In the most recent grant cycle, Chicago Tribune Charities awarded $1 million to 18 nonprofits in Chicago and the suburbs. This McCormick fund supports nonprofits that help students from low-income families transition through key stages in their academic careers. Reading proficiency by third grade is a big part of this group’s grantmaking, and programs that track achievement and build capacity are frequently prioritized.

Joel Zarrow, CEO of CLI said:

The biggest lever for improving our student's educational outcomes is reading and writing by 3rd grade. It's absolutely pivotal. To continue the improvements we are seeing in Chicago, we have to keep our students in front of effective teachers who have access to great materials and professional development. This grant from the Chicago Tribune Charities allows us to do just that.

This partnership between the Chicago Tribune and the McCormick Foundation began back in 1990. Much of its funding comes from Chicago Tribune readers and corporate donors through its Holiday Giving Campaign. This is a pretty sweet partnership for the Tribune because McCormick matches 50 cents on the dollar for these donations. In addition to early literacy, Chicago Tribune Charities supports adult literacy, job training, workforce development, and child abuse prevention and treatment.  

Through Chicago Tribune Charities, the McCormick Foundation distributes around $4 million per year to nonprofits in Chicago and the suburbs. Check the Chicago Tribune Charities page frequently for dates of letter of inquiry application periods.

Aside from Chicago Tribune Charities, the other Chicago-based funds at McCormick are the Chicago Blackhawks Community Fund, Chicago Bulls Community Assist Fund, Chicago White Sox Community Fund, Cubs Care, and United Way of Metro Chicago Impact Fund. Separate funds have been set up in Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Long Island, Los Angeles, and Orlando as well.

As a general rule, McCormick’s own education grantmaking program, which focuses on the birth-to-third-grade demographic in Illinois, does not accept unsolicited applications or inquiries. Therefore, going through these individual funds is your best bet for any type of education or literacy grant. David Pesqueira is your best point of contact for these types of grants at Chicago Tribune Charities, and he can be reached at 312-445-5052 or