Lloyd A. Fry Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The Fry Foundation has four well-defined focus areas: art education, general education, employment, and health. Fry likes to limit its grantmaking to the city of Chicago, and the board meets four times a year to review proposals.

FUNDING AREAS: Art education, education, employment, and health

IP TAKE: The Fry Foundation has undergone a number of staff changes recently, but its program officers make themselves accessible to grantees. All Fry funds stay in Chicago, so you'll only be competing against your neighbors for grants.

PROFILE: You don't see many roofing companies in the world of philanthropy, but the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation is an exception. Lloyd A. Fry Sr. started a roofing business in 1932 and teamed up with the prominent Sears & Roebuck Company in Chicago shortly thereafter. Over the next decades, the company expanded to other cities and states and began making products such as road asphalt, asphalt cements, specialty asphalt for burial vaults, and automotive storage batteries. After Fry was sold to a fiberglass company in 1977, the Fry family shifted its focus to philanthropy and poured the proceeds into the Fry Foundation.

Unlike many foundations in Chicago, Fry limits its grantmaking to the city. A lifelong resident of Chicago, Lloyd created a mission to address the problems of poverty, violence, ignorance, and despair in Chicago. That mission is still intact today. Past grants in Fry's well-defined focus areas — art education, general education, employment, and health — include: $250,000 for an extended-day program at the Big Shoulders Fund, $250,000 to expand art learning programs at Ingenuity Chicago, $160,000 to Chicago's Community Renewal Societ, and $80,000 to the Lawndale Christian Health Center.

A list of recent grant separated by program area can be found on the foundation website.

The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation is run by a moderately sized board of directors and staff, and each program officer is a specialist in his or her designated area. If you're a grantseeker looking to tap into the steady flow of Fry funds, you'll find that the program areas are on relatively equal budget footing. Fry tends to give out about 300 grants a year, with the average grants in the $20,000 to $50,000 range. The board of directors meets four times each year to choose grantees, and proposals are due two months before these quarterly meetings. Although you're not required to submit a letter of inquiry before tossing your grant proposal in the mix, it's strongly recommended that you do so to facilitate communication and feedback from the staff early in the process.

Fry won't award grants for start-up organizations, individuals, emergency causes, renovation projects, medical research, religious purposes, or governmental bodies. Although there are an overwhelming number of non-profit organizations in Chicago, at least you won't be competing against the rest of the state or the country for funds.

The letter of inquiry process is pretty standard, and the foundation wants the letters mailed to its address on LaSalle Street. Fry also likes to spread its money around the city, so continual support is cut off for one year following every five years of funding. Fry is meticulous about keeping up with its grantees and requires intensive narrative and financial reports to be filed on a regular basis.

Browse through the news section of Fry's website, and you'll quickly notice that the foundation has had some recent staff changes. Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with the program officer working in your sector, and then reach out him or her to establish a relationship. Fry is one of the more accessible foundations in the city, and its staff operates behind open windows instead of closed doors. You can contact the appropriate program officer directly or submit general inquiries through the website's online form.

PEOPLE:

  • Unmi Song, President
  • Soo Na, Health Senior Program Officer*
  • Sydney Sidwell, Director of Education and Arts Learning
  • Jennifer Miller Rehfeldt, Employment Program Officer

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