Irving Harris Foundation: Grants for Chicago

OVERVIEW: The Irving Harris Foundation specializes in early childhood education grants. Art, dance, and theater organizations regularly receive funding as well.

FUNDING AREAS: Jewish charities, early childhood education, arts and culture, reproductive rights and justice

IP TAKE: Keep Irving Harris in mind for early childhood education support but remember that justice and equality are at the heart of all grantmaking.

PROFILE: Established in 1946, the Irving Harris Foundation is the foundation of businessman and philanthropist Irving B. Harris, who was deeply involved in the lives Chicago's youngest residents. Harris's success began when he bought the Toni Home Permanent Company and sold it to Gillette in 1948. Harris became a partner at R.J. Levy & Company in 1957 until his family assets became so large that he had to become a full-time manager of them. Today, the foundation aims to improve “the quality of life for children, families and communities by advancing human potential, social justice and equity, and creative experience and expression.” Grantmaking interest areas are Jewish charities, early childhood education, arts and culture, and reproductive rights and justice.

Harris is the founder of one of Chicago's most popular early education programs, the Ounce of Prevention Fund. Before the research was well-established, Harris believed that the best way to break intergenerational cycles of poverty was to intervene during children's first five years of life. Harris has awarded grants to early education teaching training programs at the Erikson Institute, the Beethoven Project, the Early Childhood Study Center at Yale University, Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, and 500 Head Start programs across the country. Aside from early education, art grants often support politically engaged exhibits, composers and choreographers, and arts access for underserved communities. Reproductive health grants support access to quality maternal care, and Jewish giving has a social justice angle in both the U.S. and Israel.

The funder’s average grantmaking per year is in the $10 million to $15 million range. View a list of past grantees on the funder’s grantmaking page. With the exception of some Jewish giving, most Harris funding stays in Chicago.

The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals in its early childhood, reproductive health and justice, or Jewish values giving areas. To inquire about Irving Harris's application process and deadlines, reach out to the funder by phone at 312-621-3814 or via online form.


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