The Negaunee Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The Negaunee Foundation was created in 1987 to celebrate the arts and education in greater Chicagoland. 

FUNDING AREAS: Arts & Culture, Education (arts), Environment

IP TAKE: The foundation and its trustees keep a low profile. The Negaunee Foundation does not appear to accept unsolicited proposals. Music is of special importance to this funder. 

PROFILE: The Negaunee Foundation is the philanthropic vehicle of Richard W. Colburn and his wife Robin. The Colburn family was once on Forbes' Richest American Families list. The late Richard D. Colburn steered Consolidated Electrical Distributors (CED) and was also a major financier and advocate of music and music education in Los Angeles. The family continues to run CED and Richard W. Colburn is also president of Henley Management Company in Illinois. 

Richard has continued along in the footsteps of his father and strongly focuses on arts philanthropy through the Negaunee Foundation. Much of this grantmaking takes place in Chicago, but Los Angeles is another site of giving. In Chicagoland, music in particular is a high priority. The family via their foundation has given strong support to places like Chicago Lyric Opera, and the Ravinia Festival, an outdoor music festival in Highland Park, Illinois. The family has also supported Steans Institute, Ravinia's summer conservatory. Other Chicago music grantees have included Chicago Youth Symphony; Baroque Band; Chicago Children’s Choir; The Chicago Classical Recording Foundation; and Orchestral Society of Illinois.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra is another important outfit the couple supports through Negaunee, and home to the Negaunee Institute for Learning, whose mission is to "create and sustain connections to music for individuals and communities." In a recent year, Negaunee Foundation made a $15 million gift to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Outside of music, other arts grantees in Chicago have included Field Museum, Joffrey Ballet, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Arts education is also important to this funder and the late Richard D. Colburn helped establish a performing arts school in Los Angeles. In the Chicago area, the Negaunee Foundation's grantmaking has supported places like Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago High School for the Arts, Merit School of Music, and the Sherwood Conservatory of Music. 

Negaunee Foundation's grantmaking also includes providing funds for environmental organizations in Chicago like Nature Conservancy of Illinois, Openlands, and National Audubon Society (Audubon Chicago Region). 

In a recently reported tax year, the foundation made a total of around $9.4 million in grants, up from around $5 million a few years prior. It appears that grantmaking is on the rise. Grants tend to be under $100,000 but a handful exceed that number. 


  • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)


The Negaunee Foundation does not provide a clear avenue for getting in touch with the family, but below is an address:

The Negaunee Foundation

555 Skokie Blvd., Ste. 555

Northbrook, IL 60062