Field Foundation of Illinois: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: This private family funder supports community welfare, culture, education, environment, health, and urban and community affairs in the Chicago metro area.

FUNDING AREAS: Community welfare, culture, education, environment, health, urban & community affairs.

IP TAKE: Lately, the bulk of Field grants have emphasized community welfare over the other program areas. Try submitting a $15,000 to $25,000 request for general operating support if you’re a new organization or program support if you’re an established one.

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.  

There are currently six funding areas at the Field Foundation. The community welfare program supports a broad range of social service programs for disadvantaged populations. Culture grants focus on community outreach programs for disadvantaged individuals who don’t normally have access to cultural programs and capital and program support for major cultural organizations that have physical infrastructure needs and programs that target low-income populations.

Field’s education program is designed for primary and secondary school groups to support Chicago public schools. Again, the focus is on educationally and economically disadvantaged populations. Education grants are often awarded for these purposes: convening internal stakeholders, working in collaboration with other schools, programming with external partners, hiring a facilitator, consultant or other service contractor in order to advance or implement work on an identified issue, concern or program.

Environmental proposals are accepted from groups that have been in existence longer than five years, and which address pollution, urban sprawl, and restoration/conservation. Groups that can connect their mission to communities that have been neglected due to race and class, as well as ones that simultaneously address public and economic health issues, receive special priority.

There are three health areas that the foundation supports: primary care providers for the poor, aligning healthcare services across multiple disciplines, and direct services for hard-to-reach populations. The elderly and minorities often receive more health grantmaking than children. And finally, the urban and community affairs program encompasses policy, advocacy, and research support in the Chicago metro area, especially regarding affordable housing, jobs, violence, economic development, and immigrant rights.

Organizations more than five years old may receive funding, but only for new projects/programs that demonstrate innovative approaches to problems. These organizations do not receive general operating funds. The foundation welcomes new organizations with innovative approaches to persistent problems. Project or operating support beyond three years is not typically considered. The Chicago metropolitan area is the geographic focus of this funder across all program areas.

In a recent year, the foundation reported over $64 million in assets. You can view example grants by category on the foundation website. In addition to normal grantmaking, the foundation sets aside some funds for emergency and technical assistance for critical, time-sensitive needs. These grants are in the $2,000 to $5,000 range. 

Grant application procedures can be found on the General Guidelines page, and annual deadlines fall on January 15, May 15, and September 15. All proposals must be sent by mail, and the board meets three times per year. Each of the six staff members’ email addresses can be found on the foundation website, and general inquiries can be directed to the staff at 312-831-0910 or Grants Manager Beatrice Young at


  • Angelique Power, President
  • Mark C. Murray, Program Director
  • Cheryl Heads, Senior Program Officer
  • Heather Smith, Senior Program Officer