Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation: Grants for Greater Chicago and South Carolina

OVERVIEW: The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation awards grants to land conservation and artistic vitality programs in the Chicagoland area and in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

FUNDING AREAS: Land conservation, artistic vitality, regionally significant art collections in Chicago and South Carolina

IP TAKE: Chicago area environmental and arts organizations should know that the Donnelley Foundation does accept unsolicited grant applications and that Chicago grants have different application guidelines than Lowcountry grants.

PROFILE: Established in 1952, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has stayed true to its dual focus on land conservation and artistic vitality since the mid-1990s. Gaylord Donnelley was the grandson of Richard Robert Donnelley, the founder of printing company R.R. Donnelley & Sons. Gaylord and his wife, Dorothy, lived in both Chicago and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The founders believed that “land, arts, and collections reveal who we are as a people: past, present, and future.” Therefore, these are still the funder’s three grantmaking areas of interest.

Through Donnelley’s land conservation grantmaking program, the foundation supports organizations that protect natural lands through policy, planning, advocacy, and capacity-building within organizations. The regions of particular focus are Calumet, Cook County Forest Preserves, Grand Kankakee, Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Donnelley also awards project grants for collections of regional significance to help at critical junctures along a spectrum of conservation, which includes everything from basic preservation to cutting-edge mining and creative interpretation. 

Donnelley’s artistic vitality program focuses on artistic expression that nurtures the human spirit and imagination. This mostly entails general operating support for professional arts organizations to help build their capacity and build audiences, but also focuses on increasing public access to regionally significant collections. Chicago area arts organizations must have annual expenses of less than $1 million, and arts grants often range between $3,000 and $10,000 depending on an organization’s amount of annual expenses.

Overall, grants typically fall between $2,500 and $250,000 each, and the foundation typically awards between 300 and 400 grants per year. Grantseekers can view a list of past grantees on each of the funder’s program pages. The foundation’s geographical focus is on Chicago and the South Carolina Lowcountry. In addition to the Donnelley Foundation’s primary work of grantmaking, the foundation engages in partnerships and commissions, shares research, and uses coaching to build the strength of organizations in these geographic regions. The Donnelley Foundation doesn’t typically support start-up nonprofits, since organizations have historically been required to complete at least one full year of operations before applying for a grant. The foundation also does not support individuals, religious activities, political campaigns, conferences, publications, capital campaigns, or endowments.

The foundation accepts grant applications from nonprofits in Chicago. However, it wants to see artists’ work before considering a new art grant. Direct general questions to the staff at or 312-977-2700.


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