Chicago Foundation for Education: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The Chicago Foundation for Education has a handful of grantmaking programs, workshops and fellowships designed to make Chicago Public School teachers more effective in the classroom. It was established by Donald Rumsfeld’s wife back in 1985. Award typically amounts range between $100 and $1,000, depending on the program. All these grant programs are open to unsolicited applications, and deadlines are posted on the foundation’s website.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, public schools, elementary schools

IP TAKE: Lots of education funders focus on big intangible ideas like policy reform, advocacy, and theory. The Chicago Foundation for Education is all about getting back to basics. This is the foundation to apply to if you need classroom materials and practical training. Keep in mind that the grant amounts are small and heavily emphasize teacher improvement.

PROFILE: For over 25 years, the Chicago Foundation for Education has been offering grants and professional development opportunities to Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers. The foundation has established five grant programs and a teacher workshop to help innovate curriculum and replicate effective methods in the city’s public schools.   

Back in 1985, Joyce Rumsfeld, wife of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, established this foundation with a small group of concerned citizens. This was a time where Chicago’s public schools were considered to be some of the worst in the country. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for the Rumsfeld Foundation, Joyce has served on the Big Shoulders Program at the Archdiocese of Chicago, the National Advisory Council of Character Education Partnership, Inc., and the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. 

In a recent year, CFEworked with 270 total schools, awarded 284 small grants, and impacted an estimated 48,769 students. This is down a bit from previous years, which saw 687 funded grants and collaborations wtih 1,022 teachers across 344 schools. These numbers have stayed relatively consistent in recent years.

The foundation’s Small Grants program provides grants up to $600 for books, supplies, field trips, and other learning resources. This program is open to unsolicited applications, and relevant dates and deadlines are listed on the foundation website. CFE volunteers evaluate each application to assess how teachers determine their student's needs.

Another source of CFE funding is the Study Group Coach grant. These grants are awarded to Pre-K to eighth grade teachers who want to share successful teaching approaches with other Chicago Public Schools teachers. Coaches mentor study groups of six to eight teachers during two-day training sessions that utilize scholarly articles, work samples, and media presentations. These grants are for up to $1,000, and CFE usually gives out a few dozen of these. Teachers can also apply for grants up to $300 to be a Study Group Team Member. Grantees are supposed to use that money to purchase instructional classroom materials based on what they’ve learned in the sessions.

Clearly, teacher quality is at the heart of CFE grantmaking. The foundation offers an annual “Teachers as Leaders and Learners” workshop to over 500 Pre-K to eighth grade educators. The CFE Fund for Teachers Fellowships offers grants for Pre-K to 12th grade Chicago public school teachers to engage in summer fellowship experiences, often among diverse cultures in different countries. Individual teachers can receive up to $5,000 for these fellowships.

To recognize exemplary teachers, CFE honors a Teacher of the Year with a $1,000 stipend for classroom materials and/or professional development. CFE also offers $100 and $200 Character Education Bonuses to its other grant programs for teachers who promote can exhibit their teachings of core values and character development in the classroom.

Maggie Morrison is the foundation's Executive Director. Morrison came to the foundation with 13 years of experience working with education nonprofits, most recently serving as Chief Development Officer for the Chicago International Charter School. She recently joined a small staff and a larger Board Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and Life Trustees.

To see which grant programs are currently accepting teacher applications, check out the foundation’s Apply Now! section. General inquiries can be directed to 312-670-2323 or


  • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)