Chicago Region Land Conservation Grants

Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

Grant amount: US $5,000 - US $220,000

Next anticipated deadline: Mar 30, 2019 9:59pm PDT

Later anticipated deadlines: Jul 27, 2019 9:59pm PDT

Applicant type: Government Entity Nonprofit

Funding uses: General Operating Expense, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Counties in Illinois: Cook County, DuPage County, Grundy County, Kane County, Kendall County Expand all

Location of residency: United States

Location of citizenship: United States

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Land Conservation - Chicago Region

We offer general operating and project-specific grants that lead to landscape-scale land preservation and stewardship. We support efforts throughout the Chicago region with a current focus on five priority landscapes:

  • Calumet,
  • Forest Preserves of Cook County,
  • Grand Kankakee,
  • Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and
  • Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

We also encourage and participate in strategic land conservation partnerships.

To Protect and Restore

There are nearly 10 million people living in Greater Chicagoland, making it the third largest metropolitan region in the country. Nevertheless, there is a long tradition of preserving land. Currently, more than 550,000 acres of woodlands, wetlands and prairie lands are permanently protected. Chicago Wilderness – a coalition of more than 300 public and private organizations – has a goal to expand, buffer and connect those protected lands further still (see map). The ultimate goal is to achieve a thriving, interconnected network of approximately a million and a half acres. Occasionally, when opportunities arise to preserve lands of exceptional strategic significance, we offer Program Related Investments as bridge funding.

To Grow Stronger

Protecting more land is a big job. Stewarding it long-term is an even bigger job. That’s why we offer general operating grants to sustain land conservation organizations, as well as capacity-building grants to help them meet expanded land conservation opportunities. We also encourage partnerships and collaborations to accelerate and enhance our region's conservation goals.

To Advocate Change

Some land conservation happens with easements or acquisitions. Some with volunteers armed with loppers. Some occurs at the policy level. For this reason, we support advocacy efforts to align regional planning and on-the-ground results with established land conservation goals.

Program Related Investments

We don't make grants for land acquisition. In certain circumstances, we may consider a Program Related Investment. PRIs may take the form of loans, guarantees, or credit enhancements. They may be offered as a stand-alone opportunity or in tandem with one or more grants or other kinds of technical assistance. Unlike grants, PRIs are expected to be repaid to the Foundation over a set period of time. Interest rates and fees are set below current market rates, offering affordable bridge financing to vital projects.

Example of PRIs 

  • The Foundation provided a 36-month, $10 million guaranty on the purchase of conservation easements for the development rights on a 3,000 acre property in South Carolina.
  • The Foundation provided a 60-month, $523,000 loan to facilitate the acquisition of a 74-acre de-commissioned Girl Scout camp in Indiana.
  • The Foundation provided a $961,000 letter of credit to enable the construction of a wetland mitigation bank in Illinois.

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


  • Eligibility
    • You must be a 501(c)(3) public charity or unit of government.
    • You must have completed at least one full fiscal year of operations before applying.
    • You must have a demonstrated track record of advancing landscape-scale conservation.


  • The following are not eligible: 
    • Individuals
    • Religious activities, political campaigns, or legislative lobbying.
    • Stand-alone conferences, publications, films, events, websites, or videos.
    • Endowments, capital campaigns, or debt reduction.

About this funder:

View past grantees & full 990 summary