Zell Family Foundation

OVERVIEW: The Zell Family Foundation awards grants to well-established organizations in Chicago in the areas of education, entrepreneurship, literature, music, visual arts, medicine, cancer research, recreation, youth, and human services.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, entrepreneurship, literature, music, visual arts, medicine, cancer research, recreation, youth, human services

IP TAKE: The Zell Family Foundation most often funds organizations to which it is already connected.

PROFILE: Established in 1986, the Zell Family Foundation is a private foundation in Illinois. The foundation was founded and is currently run by billionaire entrepreneur Sam Zell and his wife, Helen, who is the foundation’s executive director. Sam runs the private investment firm he founded over 45 years ago and serves as chairman of several companies on the New York Stock Exchange. He is recognized as a founding father of the modern public real estate industry and created three of the industry’s largest real estate investment trusts. He has also built dozens of companies in other industries, including energy, manufacturing, logistics/transportation, healthcare and media. Helen is an avid art collector and serves as the chairman of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and has served on the boards of Steppenwolf Theatre, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Chicago Public Education Fund, and Teach for America. The foundation’s grantmaking areas of interest include education, entrepreneurship, literature, music, visual arts, medicine, cancer research, recreation, youth, and human services.

The foundation does not have a website to guide grantseekers. Outside of the Zell Family Foundation’s major grants, which reflect the couple’s passions and significant time investments, the foundation has awarded smaller grants to nearly every type of charity organization in various fields. Past Zell grantees in Chicago include Northwestern University's Lurie Cancer Center, the Chicago Public Education Fund, and the Jewish United fund of Metropolitan Chicago.

Quite a few of the Zell grants are in the $1 million range However, many other grants are between $10,000 and $100,000. Review the funder’s recent tax records to learn more about past grantees. Most grant funds stay within the Chicago city limits, but a notable portion is allocated to the University of Michigan, from which the couple graduated.

It does not appear that this foundation accepts unsolicited grant applications from nonprofits. The foundation’s phone number is 312-466-3335.

PEOPLE:

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