Illinois Tool Works Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The Illinois Tool Works Foundation collaborates with other philanthropic entities to carry out most of its grantmaking. The foundation funds a wide range of programs in the arts, education, environment, health, and social service areas.

FUNDING AREAS: Arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and youth programs

IP TAKE: The Illinois Tool Works Foundation follows a model of "lead, don't follow." It prefers to fund organizations that its employees support, although science causes get special attention.

PROFILE: The Illinois Tool Works (ITW) Foundation is all about teaming up with others to make philanthropy a reality. Rarely does ITW act independently, but it tosses funds into employee matching gifts, scholarships, and United Way donations to boost the bank accounts of nonprofits in Chicago. In fact, more than $7.6 million of the foundation's total $23.8 million of giving is affiliated with employee matching gifts, and more than $6.3 million went to United Way causes. Although science isn't actually one of ITW's grantmaking focus areas, the foundation pays particular attention to science, math, engineering, and technology organizations that send proposals its way.

ITW Foundation has had several long-term priorities, including support for education, workforce development and readiness around the world, health and human services, and the increasing globalization of the company's outreach efforts. 

You're probably already familiar with ITW's beneficiary organizations because of their prominence in Chicago and around the country: United Way, American Cancer Society, the Red Cross, and more. However, ITW does award grants to organizations around the city that aren't quite so famous. For example in the past, the Adler Planetarium received a $200,000 grant, Chicago's division of Teach for America received a $25,000 grant, and the Hubbard Street Dance Company received a $10,000 grant. ITW likes to be well-rounded in its approach to grantmaking by spreading funds out nearly equally among the program focus areas. Always keeping a keen eye on science, ITW made news by awarding a $1.1 million grant to the University of Chicago so that its science and engineering departments could renovate their outdated laboratories.  

Founded in 1954, the ITW Foundation has a long history of getting its employees involved and volunteering in their communities. The foundation gives $10 for every service hour its employees complete at approved organizations of an employee's choice. ITW offers one of the most generous matching programs in the country, with minimum contributions of $25 to eligible organizations of an employee's choice as well. The ITW company, which employs more than 60,000 people in 58 countries, got its start in 1912 when a financier named Byron Smith placed an ad in the Economist looking for a Chicago-area business to invest in. The company makes every type of equipment, from automotive parts to dishwashers, and has transformed itself from a Chicago business to a global company and philanthropy machine.

Whether you know anything about tools or not, ITW's grant program is large enough to include many sectors of the non-profit scene. To see if your organization is eligible for an ITW grant, you'll need to take its funding questionnaire and answer the questions correctly. If ITW likes what it sees, the staff will forward you an application to complete. Historically, ITW has given out about 250 grants each year, ranging in size from $100 to $6 million, but of the most part, large grants are uncommon and the great majority of them stay below $10,000. Unlike some foundations in the area, ITW will make you wait two years before applying for a second grant. Uncommonly, ITW awards grants for endowments and research as well. To get in touch with ITW, call the suburban office at 847-724-7500 and speak to Rosemary Keefe, who's in charge of community relations.

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