Crown Family Philanthropies: Grants for Climate & Energy

IP OVERVIEW: The successor to the Arie and Ida Crown foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies funds a bevy of social causes in Chicago and in the Midwest more broadly. Grants for environmental issues, including climate change, constitute some of this largesse. The award amounts are large, but relatively few, and an organization must meet numerous criteria to get them. 

IP TAKE: Be working in the Midwest, have your finances very much in order, and pay thorough attention to the lengthy list of applicant requirements.  

KEY INFO: The Arie and Ida Crown Foundation spent six decades funding philanthropic efforts in and around the greater Chicago area. Then in 2009, it underwent a restructuring and got a new name: Crown Family Philanthropies (CFP). It carries on as its predecessor did and distributes $10 million or more in grants each year to a variety of causes.

Grants for education, poverty alleviation and medical services constitute large shares of this giving. But environmental organizations, including those confronting global warming, get their due, too, especially those dealing with clean energy or clean water.

The foundation accepts climate and energy grant proposals—proposals for any environment-related projects, for that matter—on a rolling basis throughout the year. Note, though, that proposals for environment-related grants are now accepted by invitation only.

And you should know that the foundation is very specific about what it does and does not fund. Visit the website, and you will find a full list of eligibility criteria. For starters, you have to be in good shape financially. The foundation requires that your annual budget be $200,000 or more, that you are not running recurring deficits, and that you do not rely to any large degree on government funding. And fundraising cannot constitute more than 25 percent of your total program expenses.

Also, your project cannot be a scientific research endeavor. “Advocacy” efforts are also out. Nor will CFP fund films, videos, exhibitions, or conferences. And the project should be based in the Midwest. There is plenty of climate change and energy-related work to be done in this locale, in part because the region is home to a high number of coal-fired power plants, many of which are older than most existing anti-pollution legislation and are therefore especially heavy polluters. Organizations involved in curbing this industrial pollution will be in good stead with CFP. So will any organizations helping to expand the use of energy efficient building design and renewable energy systems.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest accordingly got $237,500 in recent years for its work with businesses and lawmakers to rein in coal-fired power plant pollution, create markets for renewable energy, and implement energy efficient building codes. CFP has also given $175,000 to the Sierra Club and $516,000 to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Not surprisingly, given the stringency of CFP’s requirements regarding grant seekers’ fiscal strength, big-name players claim most of the grants. And the award amounts that they get are, likewise, fairly big.

As noted above, Crown's environmental grants are by invitation only. You can contact the foundation here.


  • Elizabeth Cisar, Program Director, Environment
  • Michelle Parker, Program Officer, Environment