The Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation: Grants for Chicago

OVERVIEW: The Kaplan Family Foundation's Chicago portfolio is centered on education, and specifically local students making the high school-to-college transition and getting students through college. It also awards grants for the environment.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, environment

IP TAKE: It helps to be connected to Chicago Public Schools or a local college to be considered for an education grant. 

PROFILE: Established in 1955, the Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation is a Jewish, multi-generational funder that is closely linked to Chicago. Driven by lifelong learning and social justice through Tzedakah, the founder was Mayer Kaplan, who left the Soviet Union in the 1900s. His fortune came in the form of mattresses, as he opened a small factory in Chicago that became a franchise of the Sealy Mattress Company. A significant portion of its resources came from the 1986 sale of the Sealy Matters Company. The funder is "dedicated to advancing educational opportunities for young people and promoting the sustainability of our natural environment." Areas of grantmaking interest include education and the environment.

In Chicago, education grantmaking focuses on students making the high school-to-college transition and getting students through college. Consideration is limited to education organizations within the city limits. Programs for high school students should prepare kids to apply for college, support them during their first year of college, and improve the college advising process. The big targets are Chicago Public Schools and organizations working with CPS. Environmental funding is focused on climate change. The foundation has also supported well-established arts organizations over the years, even though arts and culture is not an established program area.

Local foundation grants tend to be between $25,000 and $50,000. Overall, most grants are in the $40,000 to $75,000 range. Nonprofits can review a list of recent grants by year on the funder's website. While education grants are limited to Chicago and Los Angeles, environmental support extends to all geographies considered, which includes the Mountain West region.

The foundation accepts unsolicited grant proposals from nonprofits, starting with an initial letter of inquiry. See the funder's website for current information about grant deadlines. Grantseekers can reach the staff at 847-926-8350 or the executive director, Dinaz Mansuri, by email at


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