Coleman Foundation

OVERVIEW: The Coleman Foundation was built upon the Fannie May Candies fortune and primarily supports Chicago-area nonprofits working to improve cancer care, independence initiatives for people with developmental disabilities, and entrepreneurship education.

FUNDING AREAS: Entrepreneurship education, cancer care, developmental disabilities

IP TAKE: With the exception of a few entrepreneurship education grants, almost all grantmaking takes place within the city or the suburbs. Although the foundation’s education and developmental disabilities focus areas are very specific, various types of cancer care and support programs are considered for funding.

PROFILE: Established in 1951, the Coleman Foundation is a Chicago-centric funder that established its current set of three grantmaking priority areas in 1981. The foundation was created Dorothy W. and J.D. Stetson Coleman, who were successful entrepreneurs in the Chicago area and owners of the Fannie May Candies company. This funder supports “educational institutions offering entrepreneurship education, organizations providing cancer treatment, education and support, and agencies providing services for individuals with developmental disabilities only in the Chicago Metropolitan area - its primary geographical focus.”

Today, the Coleman Foundation advocates for raising the standard of cancer care in the Midwest through treatment, education, and support services. The cancer care focus area is fairly broad and encompasses treatment programs, education initiatives for patients and personnel, collaborations for psychosocial support and palliative care, and initiatives to better communicate treatment options with patients. It also supports programs aimed at helping people with developmental disabilities empowering them to be determined and achieve a higher quality of life. Coleman’s developmental disability priority focuses on residential and vocational programs that encourage independence and help residents set and achieve goals. Because the foundation believes that creating a job is even better than just getting a job, it supports entrepreneurship programs that promise a new generation of business owners. Finally, Coleman’s entrepreneurship education grants support educational institutions that offer program for students to open and operate their own businesses.

Most grants have been between $2,000 and $250,000 each, and Coleman typically awards over a hundred of them each year. Recent grants are listed on the funder’s website. The Chicago metropolitan area is Coleman’s primary geographic focus, and although select parts of the Midwest receive support, only a limited number of grants leave the city limits.

To apply for a Coleman grant, nonprofits must submit letters of inquiry, which are accepted throughout the year. The board usually meets in February, May, August, and November to approve new grants. Grantseekers should direct general inquiries to the staff at or call 312-902-7120 and read Coleman’s blog to learn more about the foundation.


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