John and Rita Canning

NET WORTH: Unknown

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Co-Founder Chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC (MDP)

FUNDING AREAS: Education, poverty, women's rights, health care and arts & culture

OVERVIEW: The Cannings have a strong commitment to helping the lives of women in need and the poor, but they also support the arts, as well.

BACKGROUND: John Canning, Jr. is the Co-Founder Chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC (MDP), which is a major management buyout and equity investing firm in Chicago. Thanks to over $14 billion in capital and investments at Madison Dearborn Partners LLC, his family has enough money to spread around. Prior to founding MDP in 1993, John earned a law degree from Duke University and spent his career with First Chicago Corporation, First National Bank of Chicago, and First Chicago Venture Capital. He serves on the Board of Directors of Exelon Corporation, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and the Children’s Inner City EducationalFund.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Illinois, Rita Canning dedicated her life to volunteering for the causes closest to her heart. She’s been a long-time volunteer for Northwestern University, The Field Museum, the YMCA, and Harper College in the Chicago suburbs.


EDUCATION: John and Rita provide 100 annual scholarships to students at two low-income elementary schools and at least five high schools. The criteria for the Canning Scholarships are simple: no drugs, no alcohol, and no trouble in school.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Although neither of the Cannings has been personally involved with domestic violence issues, they empathize with the stories of the less fortunate. After discovering that there were no nearby domestic violence shelters where Rita could volunteer, she decided to start one. Her shelter, WINGS Safe House, was an uphill battle from the start to finish and after a few years, a couple lawsuits, and zero government support, the Cannings continue to be huge supporters of Women in Need Growing Stronger (WINGS), which provides shelter and comprehensive services to abused women and children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

CHICAGO/MIDWEST COMMUNITY: The Cannings have consistently donated to several other well-established educational, medical and arts organizations in Chicago and the greater area, including the Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Northwest Community Hospital, and Harper College. A few years ago, the Cannings gave $1 million to Northwest Community Hospital for an emergency room expansion. As Chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund, John helped raise more than $100 million for inner-city parochial schools in Chicago, which educate inner city students. 

If your non-profit organization is looking for a grant in either education or domestic violence prevention, keep John and Rita Canning in mind. Your organization will likely need to be well-established and based in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs to be considered. “We have to remember that charity begins at home,” Rita has said. “We must pay attention to what’s going on in our neighborhoods. We have many worthy causes and excellent services right here in our own backyard.” The Cannings don’t tend to accept unsolicited proposals for grants, so the best way to reach them is through their pet projects, Big Shoulders Fund and WINGS.


The Canning Foundation
1650 Dublin Court
Iverness, IL 60067