OVERVIEW: The Woods Fund of Chicago is the Chicago-exclusive branch of the Woods Charitable Fund, which focuses on the donor's original hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. Woods grants are awarded for public policy, anti-racism, and community development organizations in the Chicago metropolitan area.
FOCUS AREAS: Community organizing, public policy advocacy, racial equity, arts and social justice, capacity building
IP TAKE: Woods grants are fairly small yet accessible to nonprofits in the city of Chicago. Pitch a civil rights or anti-racism proposal to this fudner.
PROFILE: Established in 1941, the Woods Fund of Chicago is a family foundation based in Chicago. The Woods Family was originally from Lincoln, Nebraska, and later moved to Chicago. The family established the fund to serve both locations, with a focus on children, families, and civil rights. The foundation aims to promote “social, economic, and racial justice through the support of community organizing and public policy advocacy that engages people that are most impacted.” Core grantmaking areas of interest are community organizing, public policy advocacy, and the intersection between these two funding areas. The foundation also has special grantmaking opportunities that include the Arts and Social Justice Special Opportunities Fund, the Capacity Building Initiative, Racial Equity, the Special Opportunity Fund, and Spotlight.
The primary focus of Woods's grantmaking is on enabling work and reducing poverty within the city. Although the majority of funds go toward programs that organize communities and advocate public policy, a few arts and culture grants are occasionally awarded as well. It has been increasing interested in nonprofits that work to eliminate structural racism. Other issues that have historically been of interest to this funder include fighting poverty, affordable housing, criminal justice reform, early childhood education, government accountability, immigration reform, income supports, juvenile justice, neighborhood safety, public school reform, workers' rights, and workforce development.
Woods grants in Chicago often range from $10,000 to $60,000. The fund gives out about 100 of them each year. View lists of past grantees by program area on the funder’s grantmaking page. Giving is limited to the Chicago metropolitan area. Woods awards almost all its grants for general operating support, rather than specific program development. The fund is interested in making policy more than maintaining the status quo. Proposals that benefit Chicago's South Side and that advocate for public education reform tend to fare well with Woods.
The foundation accepts unsolicited letter of inquiry, and the board awards grants two times per year. Grantseekers must submit forms via the online grants application process. Direct general questions to the staff at 312-782-2698 or via online form.
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