Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation awards grants to land conservation and artistic vitality programs in the Chicagoland area and in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. With about $181 million in assets, the Donnelley Board considers grant applications twice a year, and grants typically fall between $2,500 and $25,000.

FUNDING AREAS: Land conservation, artistic vitality, regionally significant art collections in Chicago and South Carolina

IP TAKE: Chicago area environmental and arts organizations should know that the Donnelley Foundation does accept unsolicited grant applications. However, there is no initial Letter of Intent process in place, so if you have questions before applying, contact the relevant staff member before doing anything else.

PROFILE: The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation through preservation, restoration, and protection of strategic lands. The foundation also encourages artistic vitality by helping professional arts organizations build up their organizational readiness. The foundation’s geographical focus is on Chicago and the South Carolina Lowcountry. This is an intergenerational family foundation that was established in 1952 in Chicago with the broad mission of promoting charitable, scientific and educational causes.

Gaylord Donnelley was the grandson of Richard Robert Donnelley, the founder of printing company R.R. Donnelley & Sons. Gaylord and his wife, Dorothy, lived in both Chicago and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The foundation’s first four grants totaled $2,900 and were awarded to Chicago’s Art Institute, Presbyterian Hospital, Yale University, and the University of Chicago.

The foundation has stayed true to its dual focus on land conservation and artistic vitality since the mid-1990s. In addition to the Donnelley Foundation’s primary work of grantmaking, the foundation engages in partnerships and commissions, shares research, and uses coaching to build the strength of organizations in these geographic regions.

Through Donnelley’s land conservation grantmaking program, the foundation supports organizations that protect natural lands through policy, planning, advocacy, and capacity-building within organizations. The regions of particular focus are Calumet, Cook County Forest Preserves, Grand Kankakee, Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Donnelley also awards project grants for collections of regional significance to help at critical junctures along a spectrum of conservation, which includes everything from basic preservation to cutting-edge mining and creative interpretation. 

Donnelley’s artistic vitality program focuses on artistic expression that nurtures the human spirit and imagination. This mostly entails general operating support for professional arts organizations to help build their capacity and build audiences, but also focuses on increasing public access to regionally significant collections. Chicago area arts organizations must have annual expenses of less than $1 million, and arts grants range between $3,000 and $10,000 depending on an organization’s amount of annual expenses.

At the end of a recent year, the Donnelley Foundation reported around $181 million in assets. Grants typically fall between $2,500 and $250,000 each, and the foundation typically awards between 300 and 400 grants per year. Donnelley requires all Illinois applicants to participate in the Illinois Cultural Data Project, and amateur and community arts groups aren’t eligible to apply.

A list of recent grants can be found on the foundation website and filtered by the Chicago region and by program area. The foundation no longer publishes grant guidelines or instructions on how to apply for a grant.

The Donnelley Foundation doesn’t typically support start-up nonprofits, since organizations have historically been required to complete at least one full year of operations before applying for a grant. The foundation also does not support individuals, religious activities, political campaigns, conferences, publications, capital campaigns, or endowments.

Questions about grant procedures can be directed to Grants Manager Susan Clark, at Questions about the Chicago land conservation program can be directed to Program Director Arthur Pearson at 312-977-2709, and your point of contact for the Chicago arts program is Program Officer Ellen Placey Wadley at 312-977-2707. To keep up with recent happenings at the Donnelley Foundation, you can follow the foundation blog, which is updated about every month.


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