Field Foundation Funding Eligibility

Founded in 1940 by Marshall Field III, the Field Foundation is a private, independent foundation that has been dedicated to the promise of Chicago for over 80 years. The Field Foundation aims its grantmaking toward the goal of Community Empowerment through funding nonprofits working in Justice, Art, Media & Storytelling and Leadership Investment.

Vision: The Field Foundation seeks to invest in organizations working to address systemic issues in divested communities. At the center of the Field Foundation’s work is the idea of community empowerment. We want to clarify that we do not claim to “empower” the “powerless,” rather we see many of Chicago’s community-based organizations as immense sources of power that need support. We envision these “local power grids” as organizations, networks, alliances and seek to learn more about them for potential investment of our limited dollars.  Community empowerment is also our personal north star. A way of asking the sector to hold us accountable for our work, and to ensure that our dollars are spent on powering specific communities.

Priorities

RACIAL PRIORITIES

The Field Foundation is interested in investing 60% of its portfolio in a range of community-based organizations with an emphasis on ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American) organizations throughout the Chicagoland area. ALAANA organizations can be classified in the following way: By, for, and about serving ALAANA individuals, cultures, and communities. To assess whether your organization fits into this definition, please consider the following:

  • BY: Your leadership and board are directed, managed, and/or led by majority ALAANA individuals.
  • FOR: Your organization primarily works to improve social conditions for ALAANA cultures, communities, and individuals.
  • ABOUT: Your organization’s mission references your commitment to serving ALAANA communities.

While the Field Foundation will continue to fund a range of nonprofits, we will be race explicit in our work, and focus on understanding how funding with a racial equity lens can improve outcomes for Chicagoans.

GEOGRAPHIC PRIORITIES

To understand how need and race align throughout the city of Chicago, the Field Foundation created a series of maps. The maps outline a geographic study area where less than 10% of the residents are from Caucasian backgrounds, and analyze quality of life indicators such as educational outcomes, access to health insurance, commute times, violence rates, and access to arts and culture in those areas. By overlaying race with these quality of life indicators, the Field Foundation found that there is an incredible divestment of resources leading to a nexus of poverty and trauma that align with communities of color in Chicago. Using these findings in collaboration with our racial priorities, we have created the following geographic funding preferences:

  1. Study Area – (A) Organizations located and working in these communities
  2. Surrounding areas – (B) Organizations located and working in communities surrounding the heatmap area
  3. Surrounding suburbs – (C) Organizations located and working in the surrounding suburbs within Justice, Art and Leadership Investment
  4. Citywide Efforts and Powerhouses – (D) Organizations located outside of the heatmap but working in ways that share resources, power and funding to benefit those within the heatmap and throughout the city

Program Areas

JUSTICE

Definition: The Field Foundation seeks to level the playing field across Chicago by using Field Foundation dollars to address the root causes of inequity, be it in community environment, health, housing or other issue areas. Rather than funding direct service, we will fund organizations working to address problems at a systemic and policy level.

Examples:  

  • Community organizing
  • Alliance network building and coalition support
  • Local policy/advocacy work being done by communities for communities
  • Communication-based issue reform

Goals: Build the capacity of organizations working in advocacy, justice and system change so that they can increase the visibility of critical issues and impact the root causes of those issues, with an eventual goal of creating effective systems of change and improving community conditions.

ART

Definition: The Field Foundation seeks to create an art-centric city where each community has a robust investment in creativity and local cultural activities and artists.  We want to focus our dollars on supporting creative spaces inside chronically divested communities to spark cultural identity, creative expression and cultural connections. Preference will be given to community-based organizations who are deeply entrenched in community work. “Art” will remain an open and evolving term allowing us to learn through our funding of creative enterprises.

Examples:

  • Community-based art organizations within the heat map
  • Nonprofit organizations supporting artists from and/or working within our heat maps
  • Community defined forms of art, creative expression, and creative production happening within nonprofit spaces

Goals: Expand creative production in divested areas of Chicago by investing in a range of art forms in specific neighborhoods and advancing the capacity of emerging artists in Chicago. This support will create safe “third spaces” for creative production, foster community bonds, and increase access to cultural experiences within Chicago communities. The eventual goal is supporting community identity through the arts while advancing hubs of creativity and innovation in divested neighborhoods of Chicago.

MEDIA AND STORYTELLING

Definition: The Field Foundation seeks to change how news production and storytelling reflect Chicago and create a more equitable, connected and inclusive local media ecosystem in which the stories of all Chicagoans are told accurately, fairly, authoritatively and contextually. To that end, the foundation will fund African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American (ALAANA) media, journalists and storytellers to support narratives by, for and about ALAANA communities.

Examples:

  • Partnerships and collaborations
  • Content creation
  • Capacity building
  • Training and leadership investment
  • Rapid response funding

Goals: Create more just and inclusive narratives about Chicago that foster policy change; amplify the voices and impact of ALAANA journalists, media and storytellers in the local media landscape, and support more reporting and storytelling by traditional and alternative journalism platforms about the root causes of the city’s inequities.

*Media – The Field Foundation defines journalism as “the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” (Source: American Press Institute)

*Storytelling – The Field Foundation defines storytelling as the act of creating fact-based stories across mediums (from podcasts to documentaries) that offer perspectives that can change hearts, minds and potentially policy around pressing issues.

LEADERSHIP INVESTMENT

Definition: The Field Foundation seeks to recognize, honor, and support the deep bench of visionary leaders across Chicago. The following opportunities are aimed at promoting visionaries across Chicago by building their social capital, skillsets, networks and exposure. By creating a network, we aim to act as a connector, supporter, and investor in leaders who have the potential to transform Chicago. The Field Foundation offers three opportunities in Leadership Investment.

  1. Leaders for a New Chicago: The Leaders for a New Chicago Awards (“Leaders”) is an award for past accomplishments that promotes and advances a range of leaders whose influence will inform decision making across the city of Chicago. This unique, no-strings-attached $50,000 award ($25,000 for the individual and, if eligible, $25,000 for their affiliated not-for-profit corporation) will be awarded to between 10 and 15 awardees per year (“Awardees”). This new award will recognize leaders from within existing grantee organizations (within the past two years) of the Field Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation’s Chicago Commitment or Jack Fuller Legacy Initiative. In addition to being a grantee of either Field or MacArthur, Awardees must be working in the fields of Justice, Art, or Media & Storytelling. More details can be found in the nomination portal.
  2. Leadership Advancement Organizations: Organizations focused on leadership advancement may apply to the Field Foundation for funding to cover the costs of nonprofit leaders working in the realms of Justice, Art, Media & Storytelling to attend their leadership programs. The organization must apply on behalf of preselected program recipients allowing Field Foundation to weigh in on the final recipient. Individuals are not eligible to apply on their own behalf.
  3. Field Foundation Graduate Fellowship: Graduate students pursuing a Master’s Degree at a Chicago university may apply for a ten-month academic year fellowship. The program is a supervised field placement at the Foundation offering field work and philanthropic experience. Past fellows have applied through their school to gain credit towards their degree. Fellows learn all aspects of the Field Foundation grantmaking process by reviewing grant proposals, conducting site visits, and formulating grant recommendations, and provide written documentation for the Foundation’s staff and Board of Directors. Fellows also work on special projects. Applicants may apply in February for a fellowship during the following academic year (September through May). Read more information here.

Goals: Increase individual leadership capacity by supporting leaders and their organizations. Strengthen connections between rising and existing leaders across communities by growing leaders’ networks and social capital. Utilize a risk learning strategy to discover what successful leaders need by giving leaders the room and capital to discover their most productive self; with an eventual goal of racially diversifying and thereby strengthening civic leadership in Chicago.

SUBMISSION PROCESS

In order to begin the application process, all organizations must create an account on our online portal. Once they have created the account, they will be able to access current grant applications and apply for future grants.

The Field Foundation awards grants THREE TIMES A YEAR. The application process begins with the online submission of a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) outlining the proposed project. Dates for LOI submissions can be found here (link). The LOI must be submitted via our online portal. All fields must be complete for LOIs to be considered. The program officer reviews the LOIs and determines which projects can be moved forward for site visits and board review.

If invited, the applicants will go on to submit a full application. Once the application is submitted, the internal application process begins. Program officers will then conduct site visits to selected projects. After conducting site visits, the program officers will make funding recommendations to the Field Foundation board. All projects not receiving funding will be sent a letter of decline.

AS A GENERAL RULE

  • The Field Foundation of Illinois can only offer funding to 501(c)(3) organizations.
  • Support for capital grants should be discussed with Field Foundation staff before submitting a proposal.
  • The Field Foundation only provides support for direct service for the arts.