The Brinson Foundation: Grants for Chicago

OVERVIEW: The Brinson Foundation funds a variety of education and scientific research causes around the city of Chicago and across the globe. Most education grants are made in the Chicago metropolitan area.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, scientific research, medical research

IP TAKE: While this funder has big ambitions related to research, it hasn't forgotten about its home town. 

PROFILE: Gary Brinson established the Brinson Foundation when he retired, and foundation grantmaking kicked off in 2001. Brinson joined First National Bank of Chicago as the Chief Investment Officer in 1979 and became one of the first proponents for investing pension funds in global investments like international stocks and real estate. He founded and was president and CEO of Brinson Partners Inc. (now UBS Global Asset Management) for 11 years. Before retiring in 2000, he was considered to be one of the world’s most influential investment managers, and he managed over $1 trillion in assets at one point. The foundation’s goals are “encouraging personal initiative, advancing individual freedoms and liberties, and positively contributing to society in the areas of education and scientific research.”

From the beginning, grantmaking priorities have been education, scientific research, and medical research. Education grants have typically fallen into one of seven focus areas: financial literacy, health care career development, high school and college access, liberty, citizenship and free enterprise, literacy, STEM education, and student health. In addition to the typical types of scientific research that other foundations fund, Brinson supports programs in astrophysics, cosmology, evolutionary development biology, and geophysics. Medical research is a lower foundation priority, which the Board of Directors chooses to support occasionally as well.

Most grants have been between $200 and $100,000 in recent years. Foundation giving has exceeded $4 million annually in recent years as well. Grantseekers can view a list of past grants on the funder’s website. The funder mostly makes education grants in the Chicago area, but is also considers programs that reach broader populations across the U.S. The funder makes scientific research grants all across the U.S. with no strong Chicago preference.

According to the foundation's current perspective, it is still operating under a "no new net grants" policy. This means that new grants will only be made as old ones are transitioned out of the budget. Although the foundation does not accept grantseeker inquiries in medical research, nonprofits can submit an education or scientific research inquiry via email to at any time of the year. Grantseeker information forms are not applications. See the grant process calendar for updated deadlines. Grantseekers can also contact Brinson’s staff at or by phone at 312-799-4500 with general inquiries.


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