Circle of Service Foundation: Grants for Illinois

OVERVIEW: The Circle of Service Foundation has four grantmaking focus areas: community services, education, medical research, and Jewish causes, with the exception of a few medical research facility organizations. Nearly all of Circle of Service grantmaking stays in Cook and Lake County, Illinois.

FUNDING AREAS: Medical research, education, community services, Jewish causes

IP TAKE: Pitch a proposal for education or basic needs for the best results.

PROFILE: Established in 1997, the Circle of Service Foundation was created with the proceeds of the sale of stock by CDW Corp. founder Michael P. Krasny. Krasny was a former car salesman who found a way to make a fortune buying and selling computers in the early days of technology. In 2007, he sold CDW, a technical gadget and networking equipment company, to Madison Dearborn Partners for $7.3 billion. This boosted the foundation's assets considerably, and he's donated more than $350 million of his company shares to charity. Grantmaking areas of interest are medical research, education, community services, and Jewish causes.

Circle of Service pours a majority of its grantmaking budget into education and basic needs programs for food and housing. Since Krasny is an active member in the Jewish community and his synagogue, a good portion of the funds go to Jewish community causes as well. Not many funds go to technology-based organizations, and hardly any grants are made for the arts.

The foundation tends to award around 500 grants each year, ranging in size from $100 to $1 million. The Circle of Service Foundation typically awards over $20 million in grants annually. The funder does not have an online grants database to review. Some of the foundation's past grants in Chicago include $1.4 million to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, $1 million to the University of Chicago, $500,000 to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and $150,000 to the Ounce of Prevention Fund for early childhood development. The funder focuses the bulk of its giving on Chicago and Cook and Lake Counties in Illinois. The foundation also awards multi-year challenge grants to groups that have an established funding history.

The foundation accepts unsolicited pre-applications from local nonprofits for community services and Jewish community needs in Cook or Lake County. Although the funder accepts education requests by invitation only, grantseekers can still contact the organization with a new education program idea. Grantseekers should contact the staff with questions at 312-897-111 or


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