Joyce’s Top Two Issues Are Regional and National. Where Does that Leave Chicago?

In the past, we’ve covered a lot of the Joyce Foundation’s arts giving that promotes minority artists and diversity, but today our attention is focused in on two other issues that have emerged as huge causes for this Chicago funder.

In Joyce’s most recent grant cycle, it gave $13.7 million to organizations in the Great Lakes region. These grants were mostly spread across four focus areas, but a handful of grants were awarded outside these areas too.

The first big giving area that caught our attention was the environment. The funder gave $3 million towards environmental causes, spread across 11 grants. What’s interesting here is that the funder’s home state of Illinois didn’t get much of its environmental attention. Instead, Joyce supported three single-state environmental advocacy organizations in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio. All of these grants are going towards policy and advocacy work to protect and restore the lakes and promote clean and efficient energy use. But to be fair, Joyce did award smaller grants to a couple Chicago-based outfits, the Alliance for the Great Lakes and Faith in Place.

The other big category that Joyce focused on in its most recent grant cycle was employment. It gave an equal total amount, $3 million, to this cause and spread it across eight new grants. Of note, Joyce’s employment focus is leaning less local and more national these days. The funder’s big goal with this $3 million is to build effective workforce policies and programs and then share that the findings with federal policy makers and business groups to advance reforms. For example, a grant of $400,000 went to the Georgetown University Center on Education, a $350,000 to Boston’s Jobs for the Future, and Washington’s National Skills Coalition. The only employment grantee in Chicago was the Women Employed Institute, which received $200,000.

So based on these two top funding categories, it might seem like Joyce grantmaking is going more regional and national than ever before. So where does that leave grantseekers in Chicago?

Well, gun violence prevention is another big topic for the Joyce Foundation and it gave eight grants totaling $1.3 million recently. However, these grantees were based in Oakland, California, D.C., and Boston. There were no gun violence grantees based in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois.

But where Chicago area grantees really shine is in Joyce’s “special opportunities” grants. The funder awarded $1 million for five special opportunities grants, including two to Chicago institutions. One of these grants was $200,000, which went to the Chicago Urban League to advance the economic, educational, and social progress of African Americans. Chicago Public Media also received one of these grants worth $235,000, and this money will be put towards in-depth reporting from the Illinois Statehouse and personal stories about gun violence in Chicago.

Also in Joyce’s July meeting, the board approved a $50,000 grant to the city’s South Side Community Art Center to boost its fundraising capacity. This was considered an “other grant,” within the realm of education, democracy, and culture grantmaking. In fact, culture in Chicago is still very important to the Joyce Foundation. In July 2016, it also approved culture grants to the Albany Park Theater Project, Gilloury Institute, Illinois Humanities Council, United States Artists, Inc., and Woman Made Gallery – all based in Chicago.

So in conclusion, the Joyce Foundation has most certainly not abandoned its Chicago organizations, but top funded categories, like environment and employment, are going a bit broader. This is good news for local arts and culture groups and perhaps an opportunity to step it up in the other focus areas.

The next grant proposal deadline is August 10 for the December 2016 board meeting, followed by the December 6 deadline for the April 2017 board meeting.