Field Foundation of Illinois: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: This private family funder supports justice, art and leadership in the Chicago metro area. Program grants are given three times per year, while small grant proposals are accepted year-around. 

FUNDING AREAS: Justice, art, leadership

IP TAKE: The foundation staff underwent racial justice training as part of developing its revamped grantmaking strategy. Make sure your proposals views the issues of Chicago through a racial justice lens. 

PROFILE: The Field Foundation of Illinois supports community, civic, and cultural organizations in the Chicago area through both new and existing programs. It was established by Marshall Field III, grandson of the famous Chicago merchant who created the legendary Marshall Field department store that holds a nostalgic place in Chicago history. Marshall III was passionate about helping people through the Great Depression, endorsing New Deal policies and progressive activists during his lifetime. But what he’s perhaps best known for is founding the Chicago Sun newspaper, which merged with the Chicago Times to become the Chicago Sun-Times we know today.

After Field passed away, his foundation was divided into the Field Foundation of New York to be led by his widow, and the Field Foundation of Illinois to be led by his son, Marshall IV. The New York branch spent its assets down by 1989, but the Illinois branch remains a viable part of Chicago’s philanthropic community today.  

The foundation used to have six funding areas: community welfare, culture,  education, environment, health, and urban affairs. But now, the funder is focused on justice, art, and leadership. For justice, the funder looks to level the playing field to address the root causes of inequity. It funds groups addressing systems at systemic and policy levels, but doesn't typically fund direct services.

Art grants go towards local creativity and cultural activities that promote expression and diversity. Preference is given to art groups who are deeply involved with community work. The funder supports leadership in a few ways. It recognizes the work of local visionary leaders working in the fields of art and justice with awards, funds leadership development programs for nonprofits, and has a graduate internship program. 

You can view "heat maps" on the funder's website to see the regions of Chicago that it is most concerned about and for which issues. Foundation grants are awarded three times per year, and the application process starts with a letter of inquiry. It is necessary to discuss capital grant requests with the staff before submitting a proposal. As a general rule, direct support is only provided for the arts. 

In a recent year, the foundation reported over $64 million in assets. You can view example grants by category on the foundation website. There is also a Special Considerations Fund that supports issues outside of its normal program areas. These are highly competitive grants that range between $5,000 and $25,000. 

Grant application procedures can be found on the General Guidelines page, and annual deadlines are posted on the funder's website. There is an online portal to submit application information. General questions can be directed to the staff via online form or by phone at (312) 831-0910. 


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