McCormick: 20 Years of Early Childhood Funding

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation's program for early childhood education is now a young adult. Since November 1993, the Chicago-based funder has supported early childhood education projects and advocacy across the state of Illinois, with particular emphasis on Chicago.

Since that time, the McCormick Foundation has provided more than $100 million in funding for policy advocacy and the infrastructure of early childhood programs across the state. McCormick recognized early that improving the quality of life of Illinois' youngest residents requires a long-term commitment, and this funder is showing no signs of slowing down.

Besides its focus on Illinois, McCormick also wants to make quality child care and education more accessible to the state's most disadvantaged. Past recipients of support from this funder include early childhood education networks such as the Big Shoulders Fund in Chicago and organizations with early childhood programs such as the Chicago and DuPage children's museums.

The foundation and its various partners can point to a number of early childhood milestones across Illinois, including growth in the state's Preschool for All initiative, English Language Learning in preschool, additional training for principals, and better learning standards for early childhood programs. But much work remains in building quality early childhood education across Illinois. For early childhood advocates across the state, this means they have a partner willing to work with them.

The McCormick Foundation welcomes funding requests from a range of nonprofit organizations, as long as they are committed to its goals of quality early child care and education. The foundation's board considers requests for grants under $50,000 on a rolling basis throughout the year. Larger amounts are considered by the funder's board in May of each year. However, it's a good idea to get your proposal in as soon as possible, as discussions regarding these grants often begin in the fall and winter preceding those annual May meetings.

If you think your Illinois-based organization has a project that meets McCormick's guidelines, reach out to Aaron Smith at the foundation. The "elevator pitch" approach is what's needed for the initial contact, however. The foundation advises 2 or 3 paragraphs outlining your idea and why you should receive funding. If the foundation likes what it sees, it will invite a full proposal.