OVERVIEW: The Joyce Foundation generously supports groups working to manage stormwater, prevent pollution, rehabilitate damaged shorelines and waterways, and defend the lake ecosystem against invasive pests such as the Asian carp. The foundation also is keen on policymaking and field work, so its awards most often support groups that either work with government agencies or in coalitions to help build support for environmental policy change.
IP TAKE: The Joyce Foundation supports a variety of organizations and grantees; however, it has detailed rules guarding its funding, which grantseekers should study in-depth. It also appreciates those who partner with other organizations, whose work will thrive beyond Joyce's support, and policy work.
PROFILE: Beatrice Joyce Kean, sole heiress of the Joyce family, established the Joyce Foundation in 1948 to benefit the Great Lakes region. Its grantmaking is "driven by a belief that communities are stronger when they share benefits broadly among their people. That requires our public systems to get a few essentials right." Joyce invests in quality public education; expansion of economic opportunity for disadvantaged workers; and a more representative democracy; the environment; research-based strategies that can prevent gun violence; and culture with stories rooted in communities of color.
The Joyce Foundation conducts its marine-related grantmaking through its environment program, which is "committed to speeding the Midwest’s transition to a thriving, low-carbon economy; protecting and restoring a healthy Great Lakes environment that sustains the millions of Americans and Canadians who live along the Lakes; and broadening the base of support for strong environmental policies in our home region." Rare among funders, the foundation offers email updates on its environmental investments. It can be found at the bottom of the program's page.
True to its legacy, Joyce still limits it's funding to the Great Lakes region. Nonprofits from Chicago, downstate Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin are most likely to secure the foundation's grantmaking. However, a handful of nonprofits from Canada win grants, too, but only if their work involves the Canadian side of the Great Lakes.
Grants can be quite generous. Grantees have been known to receive six-figure awards from Joyce, around $400,000 on the higher end, often in a single year. A few exceptional applicants have landed awards that exceed $1 million. The foundation also likes to support organizations that partner with others to pursue conservation goals together.
To add, the Joyce Foundation also appreciates supporting policy measures. No matter what cause it is funding, Joyce seeks grantees that seek to improve public policy, whether it does so through direct work with lawmakers or by helping to build critical masses of activism among the public. And it almost always awards grants for specific programs, as opposed to general operating support. This is a foundation that expects to see concrete actions and results flow from its investments. However, keep in mind that they have a concrete list of dos and don’ts for talking to legislators when its funds are involved.
The Joyce Foundation expects letters of inquiry to be submitted at least six to eight weeks prior to the proposal deadline for a given grant cycle. The foundation recommends initial LOIs be two to three pages and go directly to the appropriate program officer.
Grant proposals are considered at foundation board meetings in April, July, and December. Grant applicants are encouraged to submit their proposals for the April or July meetings, since most grant funds will be distributed at those times.
- Ed Miller, Program Director, Environment
- Elizabeth Cisar, Senior Program Officer, Environment
- Aubrya Perry, Program Assistant, Environment and Democracy