Richard H. Driehaus Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: Chicago investment advisor, Richard H. Driehaus, started his own family foundation in 1983. It provides grants mostly in the $10,000 to $50,000 range to historic preservation, arts, and economic development organizations in the Chicago metropolitan area.

FUNDING AREAS: Arts & culture, built environment, economic opportunities for the working poor, investigative reporting

IP TAKE: The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation has a broad list of grantmaking program areas listed on its website, but architectural and historic preservation is where the foundation’s heart and money lay. Support for museum and historic building restoration is only rivaled by the foundation’s dedication to Chicago’s arts and culture community.

PROFILE: Richard H. Driehaus is a big name to know around Chicago. He was a successful investment advisor who started his own firm in the late 1970s and started his own family foundation in 1983. The foundation’s first few years can be best described as “experimental,” but Richard’s personal and professional interests have always driven his foundation’s grantmaking.

The Driehaus Foundation’s current funding areas are Arts & Culture, the Built Environment, Economic Opportunity for the Working Poor, and Government Accountability/Investigative Reporting. Keep in mind that this foundation doesn’t like to fund programs for arts education, arts outreach, community theater, community dance, public, private or parochial education, or health care. This foundation tends to stay away from large, multi-million dollar organizations that are well-known throughout the city. 

The Richard H. Driehaus Museum opened for tours and private events in 2008 to showcase architectural and decorative arts from celebrated designers from the 19th and 20th centuries, including the Herter Brothers and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Recent Built Environment grantees include Friends of Downtown, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Openlands, and a NeighborSpace garden project. The annual Driehaus Foundation Awards for Architectural Excellence in Community Design are a pretty big deal too.

Large past arts & culture grants (some reaching $50,000 and $100,000) have gone to the WBEZThird Coast International Audio Festival, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and the Community Renewal Society. Small theater and dance companies often receive general operating support grants between $10,000 and $20,000. Since 2003, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has been funding the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, which provides general operating support to Chicago-area arts and cultural organizations with annual budgets of approximately $500,000 or less. 

Economic Opportunity grants tend to be a bit smaller in size and have a broader geographic focus. Driehaus doesn’t award a ton of investigative reporting grants, but past ones have gone to Chicago Public Media ($45,000) and Catalyst Chicago ($10,000). With only a few exceptions, all Driehaus grantmaking is focused on the Chicago metropolitan area.

The Driehaus Foundation reported over $73 million in assets at the end of a recent yearand gave out just over $5.5 million in grants that year. Grantmaking and assets have been on the rise lately.

Kim Coventry, an author and a publishing and curatorial consultant with a focus on Chicago architecture and cultural institutions, stepped into the role of Executive Director in January 2014. She replaced the foundation’s first and only executive director Sunny Fischer. "I think the Driehaus Foundation has a really important role to play in raising the issue of public interest design, making it more fundable, making it more a way that people can see it as problem-solving," Fisher told the Chicago Tribune towards the end of her tenure.

Current deadlines can be found on the Apply: Driehaus Foundation page. However, arts and culture groups with budgets under $500,000 and small theater and dance companies with budgets under $150,000 have their own set of deadlines. There are no formal application forms, and most grants stay in the Chicago area.

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