Leo S. Guthman Fund

OVERVIEW: The Leo S. Guthman Fund awards grants in the fields of urban gardening/agriculture, the arts, and youth leadership development. It sets some funds 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: LSGF is in a sunsetting phase, so it’s now or never to tap into this Chicago funder’s assets.

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. 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. The funder aims to “unite communities and tackle the challenges of vulnerable people, assist veterans, and provide for basic needs.” Grantmaking areas of interest are health, youth leadership, vulnerable populations, arts and culture, and urban gardening and agriculture.

In Chicago today, foundation support 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. Arts grants fund 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. 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 service needs. The Guthman Fund’s urban gardening and agriculture funding area has supported programs that address the lack of fresh foods in Chicago neighborhoods, educate residents about organics, and maintain community gardens and urban farms. 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.

Foundation grants can reach amounts up to $10,000. View a list of past grantees on the funder’s website. Although Chicago is at the heart of Guthman grantmaking, discretionary grants are also made by LSGF trustees nationwide. Since 2017, the foundation has only accepted proposals from existing grantees for some categories, such as youth leadership and art. Since deciding to sunset over the next few years, renewal grants are funded at reduced amounts and there are limited opportunities to invite new proposals.

The foundation now only accepts proposals by invitation only for all giving categories. There are two giving cycles per year, with proposal deadlines on January 15 and August 15. Direct general inquiries to the staff at 312-641-5776 and or submit them via online form.

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