MacArthur Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The MacArthur Foundation's enormous amount of assets has enabled it to balance local Chicago causes with over-arching national issues from coast to coast. In Chicago, MacArthur has invested over $1.1 billion in more than 1,300 local organizations since 1978.

FUNDING AREAS: Arts & culture, community & economic development, digital media & learning, housing, juvenile justice

IP TAKE: If you run a non-profit in Chicago, try to not get overwhelmed with the inner-workings of the MacArthur Foundation. It's a huge national and international nonprofit charitable foundation, but you mostly need to concern yourself with the housing, digital medial, and arts programs. Arts organizations fare the best in the city, receiving millions in grants annually.

PROFILE: Wealthy real estate and insurance businessman, John D. MacArthur, developed the MacArthur Foundation, which is the largest of its kind in Chicago. MacArthur makes grants and loans through over a dozen rograms including MacArthur Fellows Program. The Fellows program is a five-year award to individuals of all ages who exhibit exceptional promise for creative work in the United States. Fellows grants have been referred to as "no strings genius grants," in the amount of $625,000 each. Unfortunately, this isn't a program that you can apply for or nominate someone for. 

MacArthur holds approximately $6.47 billion in assets (December 2014) and authorized $203.5 million in grants that year. That year, U.S. programs got $83.2 million, compared to $73.2 million for international programs. The bulk of U.S. grants have been going to media, culture & special initiatives, followed by the fellows program and cross-foundation programs. MacArthur has gotten into funder collaborations in a big way.

Unlike some Chicago foundations, MacArthur doesn’t limit its giving to the Chicagoland area. The foundation works in about 50 countries and works substantially in Africa, Asia, India, Latin America, Mexico, and Nigeria too. However, it does have a soft spot in its heart for the “windy city.” It separates national and international programs so you'll be facing less competition than it appears on the surface.

Even though MacArthur spreads its love to other cities and countries, plenty of large grants stay right here at home. Although MacArthur awards grants for international artistic exchanges, these grants are only open to current grantees. MacArthur supports more than 300 arts and culture organizations in the Chicago area. Read through the How We Work page for more insights about how to approach this funder.

Review the Guidelines and Funding Cycles page for a list of programs that MacArthur is currently accepting proposals and inquiries for. Check the foundation website for updates about deadlines for submitting letters of inquiry in a particular program area. Then you can send an email to the foundation staff at You can reach the Chicago office directly with questions at 312-726-8000.


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