Leo S. Guthman Fund: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: This funder awards grants in the fields of urban gardening/agriculture, the arts, and youth leadership development. Some funds are set aside for summer youth employment and early childhood education. All giving is focused on Chicago.

FUNDING AREAS: Health, youth leadership, vulnerable populations, arts and culture, urban gardening and agriculture.

IP TAKE: Since LSGF is only considering proposals from existing grantees for arts and youth leadership, try your hand at an urban agriculture/gardening grant. This is a newer funding area, so the guidelines may change, but there are some good opportunities here for Chicago groups fighting food deserts.

PROFILE: The Leo S. Guthman Fund (LSGF) is a private family funder that provides grants to nonprofits that support vulnerable populations, improving health and supporting youth leadership. It has supported over 300 organizations since 2003. Although Chicago is at the heart of Guthman grantmaking, discretionary grants are also made by LSGF Trustees nationwide.

Prior to his death in 2003, Leo S. Guthman was a Chicago investor, art collector, and philanthropist who was known for his striking presence and friendly demeanor. For two decades, he was the president of chemical coating and industrial packaging manufacturer Bradley & Vrooman, Co. Then he turned his attention to investing and charitable donations, including funding for the Storybook Garden behind the Douglas Park branch of the Chicago Public Library.

In Chicago today, the foundation support typically goes to arts as a tool for improving people’s lives through building or healing community, social services, health, youth leadership development, and summer employment for youth. Population groups in focus are adolescents, children, and low-income families. Over the years, foundation support has gone to arts education, Judaism, museums, theaters, zoos, and human services needs. In a recent year, the foundation reported over $2.6 million in assets.

The Guthman Fund’s urban gardening and agriculture funding area is relatively new. Thus far, it has supported programs that address the lack of fresh foods in Chicago neighborhoods, educate residents about organics, and maintain community gardens and urban farms.

In 2015, the foundation decided to accept only renewal proposals in its funding categories of arts and culture and youth leadership. The arts category funds programs that use art as a tool to help people overcome physical and mental illness and disability. It also funds programs that use the arts to impact neighborhoods. Youth leadership development grants fund programs that teach young Chicagoans leadership skills and put them into practice in real-life situations.

Guthman also supports a summer youth employment initiative in the spring cycle and offers support to arts, science, and cultural organizations that give paid internships to teens. These grants can reach amounts up to $10,000. The fund also collaborates with the Pritzker Early Childhood Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, and the Bright Promises Foundation to award EQUIP grants that enable early childhood centers to hire consultants to work with staff and improve programming.

The first step for grantseekers is to contact the foundation to tell the staff about your organization and determine if it will accept a proposal from you. Aside from selected trustee picks, all organizations must be located in Chicago and primarily serve Chicago populations. Spring proposals are due by January 15 and fall proposals by August 15 each year. The only exceptions are the Youth Summer Program, which has a January 31 deadline and the EQUIP program that covers all of Cook County and has a May 31 deadline. You can view a list of recent grantees by funding category on the foundation website.

Guthman's daughters, Lynee Rosenthal and Patricia Silver, have served as the foundation’s trustees since the beginning. Iris Krieg serves as the foundation’s executive director, and Lauren Krieg as the sole program officer and second staff member.

To keep up with recent foundation news and events, sign up for the foundation mailing list. General inquiries can be directed to 312-641-6330 and emailed to Iris Krieg at ikrieg@ikriegassoc.com or Lauren Krieg at lauren@ikriegassoc.com.

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