William G. McGowan Charitable Fund: Grants for Chicago

OVERVIEW: Although the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund is a national funder, many grants are regularly awarded in the Chicago area. Priorities include education, vulnerable communities, and healthcare and medical research.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, healthcare and medical research, human services

IP TAKE: Pitch a healthcare proposal about cardiac care. Education has received pretty consistent support and is broadly focused on graduation rates and pre-K to grade 12 programs.

PROFILE: Established in 1993, the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund is a family foundation in Chicago. McGowan was the founder and chairman of MCI Communications and expanded the company from a local radio service to a $9.5 billion telecommunications giant. This fund was established upon his death from heart disease in 1992. The fund aims to “perpetuate William McGowan’s tradition of compassionate philanthropy and ethical leadership.” There are three grantmaking program areas at the Chicago-based McGowan Foundation: human services, education, and health care and medical research.

McGowan focuses its education grantmaking on poor, disadvantaged neighborhoods, addressing achievement gaps, and boosting graduation rates. Pre-K through grade 12 programs have been considered for grants. More recently, there's been a focus on early childhood education programs, out-of-school programs, charter and faith-based alternative schools, and teacher training. Health care and medical research grantmaking is focused on institutions that advance cardiac disease research and heart disease prevention programs. The founder, William McGowan, succumbed to a six-year battle with heart disease after two heart attacks and a heart transplant. The foundation launched an obesity-prevention initiative, which is a collaboration with the American Heart Association and the nonprofit children’s health system, Nemours. McGowan provides community grants to organizations that serve the elderly, disabled, homeless, and poverty-stricken through job training, education, wellness, and community building. Typical grant recipients include both community organizations and leading academic institutions.

A majority of grants are between $10,000 and $50,000. View lists of recent grants on the funder’s website. Although McGowan is a national funder, a good number of grants are regularly awarded in the Chicago area. The Chicago area focus is on the neighborhoods of Austin and North Lawndale, as well as the suburban city of Aurora. Outside of Illinois, McGowan grants are restricted to specific parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, Western and Upstate New York, and Northeast Pennsylvania. This foundation likes to partner with other funders that share similar program areas and collaborate on joint projects. In addition to the grantmaking programs, McGowan has a fellowship program for top-ranked MBA students who are dedicated to ethical leadership and societal concerns.

McGowan does accept unsolicited letters of inquiry through an online system. It does not, however, make support advocacy, building funds, capital campaigns, endowments, sponsorships, grants to individuals, international grants, multi-year awards, or the arts. The board of directors considers new grant requests three times per year. To get in touch with the McGowan staff about grants, call 312-544-4412 or email info@williamgmcgowanfund.org.


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