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 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.



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.


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


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.


  • 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.


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.


  • 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.


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

  • Existing Justice and/or Art Grantees: The Field Foundation will identify leaders working at existing grantee organizations to apply for a Field Leader award. The application process is by invitation only and the selection process will happen annually. Award recipients will be granted $25,000 to use as they determine in the application process.
  • Leadership Development Organizations: Organizations focused on leadership development may apply to the Field Foundation for funding to cover the costs of nonprofit leaders working in the realms of Justice or Art 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.
  • Field Foundation Graduate Internship: Graduate students pursuing a Master’s Degree at a Chicago university may apply for a ten-month academic year internship. The program is a supervised field placement at the foundation offering field work and philanthropic experience.  Past interns have applied through their school to gain credit towards their degree.  Interns 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.  Interns also work on special projects. Applicants may apply in late January for an internship 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.


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.


  • 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.