OVERVIEW: Early childhood education funding has always been a major focus of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. In recent years, McCormick has focused its efforts on providing grants to bolster early learning service providers, researchers, and advocacy nonprofits, with an emphasis on improving policy, public awareness, and infrastructure, mainly in the Chicago area and the state of Illinois.
IP TAKE: McCormick has a history of building partnerships with local nonprofits. This approach, and the fact that it does not accept unsolicited inquiries or proposals, can make it difficult for first-time grantseekers to get on the foundation's radar. McCormick focuses specifically on Illinois-based nonprofits, making it highly challenging for grantseekers outside the state to earn funding, though outside organizations still occasionally qualify.
PROFILE: Founded in 1955 following the death of Chicago Tribune editor and publisher Robert R. McCormick, the foundation "is committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens" by nurturing "citizen leaders" and improving life "in our communities." Its education program is specifically ECE-oriented, with the purpose of advancing "a system of quality early care and education for children birth through third grade in Illinois" through advances in policy, public awareness, and infrastructure. Philosophically, McCormick seeks out organizations "who think holistically about social issues," and the foundation places a high premium on accountability in achieving measurable results in its grantmaking.
McCormick is, for the most part, Illinois-centric in its ECE grantmaking, with a heavy focus on the city of Chicago. Organizations based in outlying and surrounding Chicagoland areas, such as Highland Park and Evanston, have also won ECE grants from McCormick. Though grantees outside Illinois were rare, a select few organizations outside of Illinois recently were awarded ECE grants from McCormick as well, including the University of California-Berkeley, the National Academies, and other (often) research and policy organizations. Other non-Illinois-based recipients were nevertheless working on projects designed to benefit that state. In terms of funding scope, grants have gone to support general operating expenses as well as specific programs and initiatives, have been single- and multi-year, and have ranged from $50,000 to $500,000 in size. A searchable database of McCormick grants is available here.
In a recent year, a significant portion of the millions of dollars in grants for Illinois-based nonprofits for early childhood education programs was dedicated to services and programs aimed at infants, toddlers, and their families. Recent McCormick Foundation grants have also included quality early childhood teachers and programs, quality leadership (including for principals), family and community outreach efforts, curriculum development and alignment, public policy, and teacher evaluation, professional development, training, and continuing education.
McCormick does not accept unsolicited proposals for its education program, and there is conficting information on the foundation's site regarding whether it accepts unsolicited inquiries. Grant decisions are made every year in May.
- Cornelia Grumann, Director, Education Program
- Lindsay Alvis-Cochrane, Senior Program Officer, Education Program