Wieboldt Foundation: Chicago Grants

OVERVIEW: The Wieboldt Foundation awards grants to organizations working to end homelessness and community issues. The board likes to learn more about organizations that create new local institutions, train local leadership, collaborate with other similar groups, and excel at local fundraising.

FUNDING AREAS: Homelessness and urban and community development in low-income neighborhoods

IP TAKE: The Wieboldt Foundation is exclusively committed to ending homelessness and low-income suffering in the city of Chicago. Wieboldt grants aren't huge, but you won't be facing national or international competition for them either.

PROFILE: William Wieboldt became a successful businessman in Chicago because of the generosity of others, and he never forgot it. As a child in Germany, Wieboldt grew up fatherless and was given a chance to gain experience working in an uncle's general store. At the age of 26 and with $2,600 in the bank, Wieboldt and his new bride, Anna, started their own small store on Chicago's northwest side. Wieboldt's ingenuity created business profits that rivaled the well-established downtown establishments on State Street. At its peak in 1910, Wieboldt's original department store employed at least 700 people, expanded to 15 Chicago-area locations, and brought in $3 million in sales annually.

The Wieboldt couple started their foundation in 1921 with the lofty goal of "putting an end to the need for charity." The wealthy couple, who relied on hard work, intelligence, and consideration for their customers, passed away in the 1950s, but their legacy lives on today. The primary mission of the Wieboldt Foundation is still focused on supporting multi-issue community organizing groups that work in Chicago's low-income neighborhoods.

Annual Wieboldt giving rarely exceeds $1 million, but all of those funds remain in the city and surrounding suburbs. Recent Wieboldt grantees include the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Enlace Chicago, Southside Together Organizing for Power and II Coatlition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights. Each of these October 2014 grants were for $20,000. 

The foundation is administered by a small staff consisting of only an executive director and associate director. However, there about 10 board members who review grant proposals before the checks are written. The Wieboldt board likes to learn more about organizations that create new local institutions, train local leadership, collaborate with other similar groups, and excel at local fundraising. Wieboldt tends to toss out proposals that request funds for capital development, research studies, and direct social services programs. Unlike many broad foundations in Chicago, Wieboldt is exclusively committed to homelessness and low-income community development, so don't bother with education, art, or health proposals.

As is typical, the application begins with a letter of inquiry. Email your best program pitch to Wieboldt's staff at awards@wieboldt.org and wait to see if an invitation to submit a full proposal comes your way. Wieboldt does like to keep in touch with its grantees and award multi-year grants as much as possible. Grant applications are reviewed typically four times per year. A list of past grantees can be found here.

Wieboldt also funds program-related investments through loans, loan guarantees, or equity investments to help community groups with financing. Wieboldt offers program related investments up to $40,000 and up to a five-year period.To be considered, your program should create housing for low-income Chicago citizens, support neighborhood business ventures, or provide employment opportunities for Chicago residents. You'll need to contact the foundation by phone to discuss the specifics. Executive Director Regina McGraw can be reached at 312-624-8916, and Associate Director Carmen Prieto can be reached at 312-786-9377.

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