Polk Bros. Foundation Grants

Polk Bros. Foundation

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Grant amount: Unspecified amount

Deadline: Rolling

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, Applied Project / Program, Training / Capacity Building

Location of project: Cook County, Illinois

Location of residency: Cook County, Illinois

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About this funder:

View past grantees & full 990 summary


Note: Due to the economic downturn and our commitment to funding existing grantees, the Foundation will consider very few proposals from organizations that have not previously received Foundation support.

Polk Bros. Foundation Grants

The Polk Bros. Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for the people of Chicago. We partner with local nonprofit organizations that work to reduce the impact of poverty and provide area residents with better access to quality education, preventive health care and basic human services. Through our grantmaking, we strive to make Chicago a place where all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. 

The Foundation also has a small grants program that makes grants of up to $25,000 to organizations with limited funding histories and annual expenses of $75,000 - $500,000. The application process for small grants is the same as for the larger board grants.

Our Focus

Polk Bros. Foundation’s primary focus is support for efforts that address poverty’s complex roots and devastating effects, and which benefit populations of need in disinvested Chicago communities. Very few awards are made to organizations located outside the city of Chicago.

Grants are made for both new and ongoing initiatives in six program categories: strong communities, strong families, education, health, arts access and learning, and enhanced capacity. In all areas, proposals should address increased access to services, systems-level change and improvement in the quality of life for area residents.

Strong Communities

To strengthen Chicago and its neighborhoods, we support efforts focused on workforce development, housing, community and economic development, legal services, and safe communities.

Strong Families

To strengthen families and their support networks across Chicago, we invest in efforts that promote healthy relationships and youth development and offer equitable access to holistic services.


To ensure all Chicago public school students are prepared for success in college, in their careers, and in life, we invest in school improvement and student academic success.


To improve the health outcomes of Chicagoans, especially those affected by poverty, we support efforts that expand access to school-based and community-based preventive and primary health care.

Arts Access and Learning

To increase Chicago public school students' access to the learning opportunities that come from deep participation in the arts, we support school-based arts education programs and community-based arts instruction for youth.

Enhanced Capacity

To help our grantees — and the systems in which they operate — thrive, we support capacity building at the organization level and at the sector level.

Strategic Collaborations

To achieve greater impact, we often join forces with our colleagues in philanthropy, nonprofits and the public and private sectors.

NOTE: There are no deadlines for the submission of proposals to Polk Bros. Foundation. Applications are accepted year-round, scheduled in the order in which they are received, and considered at quarterly board meetings in February, May, August and November. We generally recommend completing your two-phase application three to four months prior to the date of the board meeting.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Applicants to the Polk Bros. Foundation must have received a 501(c)(3) ruling from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • A pre-application may be submitted if the grant-seeking organization:
    • is located in the city of Chicago 
    • has been in operation for at least one year
    • has at least one paid staff person
    • has 501c(3) non-profit status (or a fiscal agent with same)
    • has completed a 990 tax return or audit for the previous fiscal year 
    • had actual cash expenses of at least $75,000, not including in-kind expenses, during the previous fiscal year; 
    • received two or more grants of at least $2,500 each from private foundations or corporations during the most recent and/or current fiscal year


  • The Foundation will not consider more than one request from an organization or its affiliates in a 12-month period, nor will it generally fund more than eight percent of an organization’s operating budget.
  • The Polk Bros. Foundation will not support:
    • Organizations that devote a substantial portion of their activities to attempting to influence legislation or to participating in campaigns on behalf of candidates for public office.
    • Religious institutions seeking support for programs whose participants are restricted by religious affiliation or whose services promote a particular creed.
    • Purchase of dinner or raffle tickets or advertising in dinner programs.
    • Medical, scientific, or academic research.
    • Grants to individuals.
    • Tax-generating entities (municipalities, school districts, etc.) for services within their normal responsibilities.