OVERVIEW: The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is a huge player in Chicago philanthropy, giving millions of dollars each year to civics, community improvement, education, journalism, and veteran causes. The foundation has a straightforward grantmaking process, but only some of its focus areas accept unsolicited grant applications at any given time.
FUNDING AREAS: Education, democracy, communities, veterans
IP TAKE: This funder prioritizes Chicago's residents through its education and democracy programs, so focus your pitch on early childhood education and youth civic awareness. There are lots of individual funds at McCormick worth getting to know also.
PROFILE: Established in 1955 by the longtime Chicago Tribune publisher and editor, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation is one of the largest foundations in the United States, with over $1 billion in assets. Its annual charitable distributions top $75 million. McCormick's focus areas are education, democracy, communities, and veterans.
A large part of the McCormick mission is to sustain the museums, parks, gardens, and golf course at the founder's Cantigny Park estate in suburban Wheaton, Illinois. This 500-acre farm was owned by Robert McCormick, and he arranged for it to become a public park in his will. However, other parks and recreation and environmental causes are rarely considered for grants. The foundation has given out around 100 grants a year, ranging in size from about $1,500 to $200,000. Almost all of these grants go toward general operating support.
Some of McCormick's large sample grants include:
- $5 million to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for the capital campaign for the new building
- $2.5 million to Northwestern Memorial Foundation for Project RESTORE
- $1 million to Chicago Shakespeare Theater for the third theater
Some sample local grants include the following:
- $500,000 to the Chicago Public Education Fund for Fund 4: Transforming Schools, Scaling Success
- $500,000 to the Uhlich Children's Advantage Network for UCAN's new campus
- $275,000 to Voices for Illinois Children for a year of general operating support
In recent years, McCormick grantmaking has gravitated towards the youth initiatives, including early childhood education, youth democracy, and civic education. Research studies found that black infants are twice as likely to die than white infants, and 25% of black and Latino infants and toddlers don't have access to healthy food. These disturbing statistics are reinforcing McCormick's dedication to Chicago's children.
To apply for a grant, review McCormick's Grantseeker Information page and choose the program that most applies to your organization. Each program area has its own set of restrictions and deadlines, so pay attention to the particulars.
Your democracy program proposal should strengthen the civic education system for youth, and your communities program proposal should help low-income families become self-sufficient. However, nonprofits must apply for communtities grants through one of McCormick's fund partners like the Chicago Blackhawks Community Fund or WGN Radio Neediest Kids Fund.
Your veterans proposal should provide inclusive communities to which war heroes can return home. Although McCormick's education program does not accept unsolicited grant inquiries, you should know that it only applies to children from birth through third grade.
- Bill Koll, Communities Program Director
- Mega Everett, Veterans Program Director
- Cornelia Grumman, Education Program Director