Joyce Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The Joyce Foundation supports a wide range of causes in the Great Lakes region including environmental preservation, diverse art, energy efficiency, teacher quality, gun violence prevention, early literacy, and workforce development. 

IP TAKE: Chicago-based organizations will be competing against their neighboring states for grants from Joyce, but the foundation is very specific about the type of proposals it likes to see. Keep your program objectives perfectly in line with Joyce's and emphasize your Chicago heritage.

PROFILE: Since the sole heir of the Joyce family, Beatrice Joyce Kean, started her own foundation in 1948 to benefit the Great Lakes region, the Joyce Foundation has accumulated more than $950 million in assets. The family's wealth came from timberlands, sawmills, and building-material distribution facilities in the Midwest, Louisiana, and Texas. Joyce's grantmaking focus areas are education, employment, environment, gun violence, money and politics, and culture. And nonprofits from Chicago, downtstate Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin are given consideration.

The Joyce Foundation distributes about $45 million in grants each year. As a general rule, Joyce will not fund grants for individuals, religious activities, political campaigns, scholarships, commercial ventures, or capital proposals.

Chicago organizations may want to focus their education grant proposal supports the K-12 demographic, rather than early childhood education or higher education. If you're submitting an employment proposal, consider including provisions for women on welfare and ex-offenders. You might want to address the energy crisis in your environmental proposal, and lessening the influence of big money in political campaigns in your democracy proposal. Culture proposals should be for arts groups of color, and gun violence prevention proposals should defend existing gun laws rather than make guns more accessible.

In recent years, Joyce's grantmakinghas gravitated towards preparing Chicago students for real jobs. Support for environmental causes in the Great Lakes also remains strong with Joyce staff. Unlike many foundations, Joyce will consider funding a project that involves lobbying, as long as you can sufficiently explain that you will find funding elsewhere for the lobbying activities.

The Joyce Foundation has a straightforward approach to the grant application process. Be sure to review Joyce's How to Apply page to brush up on the program priorities. Make sure to submit your letter of inquiry at least six to eight weeks prior to the proposal deadline for a given grant cycle. Electronic copies of grant proposal narratives and budgets (without attachments) should be sent to Check out the foundation newsroom to keep up with recent happenings.


  • Beth Swanson, Vice President of Strategy & Programs
  • Stephanie Banchero, Senior Education Program Director
  • Ed Miller, Environment Program Director
  • George Cheung, Democracy Senior Program Officer
  • Nina Vinik, Gun Violence Prevention Program Director