W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The Chicago-based Stone Foundation supports education, youth, and early childhood nonprofits in Chicago, as well as the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Philadelphia and Boston. Most grants are in the $50,000 to $150,000 range and although unsolicited proposals are not accepted, there are two grant award cycles per year.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, youth development, early childhood development, scholarships

IP TAKE: This funder doesn't accept unsolicited proposals, but nor is its door completely shut to would-be new grantees. 

PROFILE: The W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone foundation was established in 1958 and focuses grantmaking on education, youth development, and early childhood development. W. Clement Stone was a Chicago native born in 1902 who grew up selling newspapers and insurance policies. In the 1980s, his successful Combined Insurance Company of America grew into what’s now the multimillion-dollar Aon Corporation.

He and his wife, Jessie, supported civic, community, political, and humanitarian causes during their lifetimes, and foundation grantmaking was originally focused on mental health, education, children/youth, and religion. Clement published three self-help books, Success through a Positive Mental Attitude, The Success System that Never Fails, and The Other Side of the Mind.

In a recent year, the Stone Foundation awarded over $3.9 million in grants during the spring season. The foundation has over $100 million in assets and disburses around $6 million per year. Although the foundation is based in Chicago and much of the grantmaking is focused here, Stone also awards grants in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Philadelphia and Boston, all regions we cover here in depth at Inside Philanthropy. 

Stone’s education program focuses heavily on teacher quality and principal leadership, which are popular funding causes in Chicago. The foundation believes that managerial and analytical talent is deeply needed in urban schools. These are Stone’s specified “levers of change”: recruitment, preparation, induction and retention of teachers and principals; the creation of meaningful career pathways for teachers; professional development that is sustained over time and maintains a focus on evidence of student learning; and the managerial talent that supports teachers and principals. Past education grantees in Chicago include the Academy for Urban School Leadership, the Chicago Public Education Fund, and the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute. Many past education grants have been between $70,000 and $150,000.

The youth development program at Stone is aimed at giving youth a voice and listening to their perspectives. Low-income and underserved youth between the ages of 10 to 24 are the target, here, and most grants go to youth media, youth organizing and youth-led advocacy groups. One past youth development grantee in Chicago was Mikva Challenge. This grant was for $50,000, but other youth grants have reached $150,000.

The early childhood development program supports initiatives and policies that benefit kids between ages zero to eight. Stone typically supports programs that promote literacy by the end of third grade, quality early education leadership, and public awareness. Local early education support has extended to Action for Children, the Erikson Institute, and the Ounce of Prevention Fund. Past grants in this category have been between $25,000 and $300,000.

In addition to these three grantmaking areas, Stone also offers some scholarship support. Scholarships are related to these three focus areas and have gone toward increasing the number of people working in early childhood development, increasing the number of well-qualified teachers working in low-income, inner-city schools, and building leadership development in the fields of youth development, education and early childhood development.

Stone Foundation took on a new leader in the summer of 2015, one that we were already familiar with at IP. Sara Slaughter, former director of education at the McCormick Foundation, took over as Stone’s executive director and replaced Tony Smith, who was appointed Illinois State Superintendent of Education. The Stones' son, Norman, has served as chairman of the foundation board, and several other family members serve on the board as well.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, Stone does not accept unsolicited grant proposals, and the Stone staff typically reaches out to nonprofits of interest for preliminary conversations. There are typically two grant cycles per year, in the late spring and early fall. From initial contact to grant receipt, grantees can expect to wait between six months and a year. Multi-year funding is regularly awarded for grantees that prove themselves in the first year.

To get in touch with the Chicago-based staff with general inquiries, call (800) 288-4859 or email Grants Manager/Program Associate Brian Dixon at Brian@wcstonefnd.org.


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