Joyce Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The Joyce Foundation has adopted a strong racial equity and economic mobility focus with its grantmaking. Other causes supported are the environment, gun violence prevention, criminal justice reform, and culture.

IP TAKE: Focus your proposal on mobilizing children and teens of color in Chicago. Joyce is looking to the future, and this is it. 

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 $934 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, Downstate Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin are given consideration.

The Joyce Foundation distributes around $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.

The big focus for this funder right now is racial equality and economic mobility. The foundation believes that the Great Lakes region's future success is tied to the success of young people of color who live here. There are currently five core Joyce programs: education and economic mobility, environment, gun violence prevention and justice reform, democracy program, and culture. Education and economic groups will come out the big winners , especially ones that target low-income students of colors who attend K-12 schools. 

Overall, Chicago organizations should 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 past years, Joyce's grantmaking has 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 guidelines. 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.


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