Frequently Asked Questions

1What does Polk Bros. Foundation do?
Polk Bros. Foundation is a private independent foundation dedicated to building and strengthening Chicago's families and communities, especially those most affected by poverty. The Foundation focuses its work at the intersection of Chicago's most pressing issues to address the complex roots and devastating effects of poverty, challenge inequity, and ensure that all Chicagoans have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Since its founding in 1988, the Foundation has partnered with more than 3,000 Chicago nonprofits to build strong communities and families, increase access to quality education and the arts, improve health, and strengthen organizations and the sectors in which they work. Polk Bros. Foundation is one of the largest funders of Chicago nonprofits, granting more than $25 million to nearly 400 nonprofit partners every year, and managing assets greater than $400 million.
2Where does Polk Bros. Foundation make grants?
Polk Bros. Foundation only funds organizations located within the city of Chicago. Rare exceptions are made when services are provided in Chicago and Chicago residents make up at least 80% of those served by the program for which support is requested.
3We are a new organization. Can we apply for funding?
Polk Bros. Foundation only considers proposals from organizations that have been in operation for at least one year and have non-profit 501(c)(3) status or a fiscal agent with 501(c)(3) status. Please complete an eligibility checklist and, if eligible, register for access to our Grants Portal. NOTE: This page will be updated in July 2018 to include links to our soon-to-be-launched online Grants Portal and eligibility checklist. Learn More
4How can we apply for a grant? We have never been funded by Polk Bros. Foundation.
Please first explore our focus areas to understand our grantmaking and what we support. If you believe your organization’s work aligns with our funding priorities, please complete our eligibility checklist and, if eligible, register for access to our online Grants Portal. If you receive login credentials for Polk Bros. Foundation’s online Grants Portal as a result, you may log in and begin your application. Learn more about our process.NOTE: This page will be updated in July 2018 to include links to our soon-to-be-launched online Grants Portal and eligibility checklist. Learn More
5How can we apply for a grant? We have previously received grants from Polk Bros. Foundation.
If your organization has been funded by the Foundation within the past five years, you will receive login credentials for Polk Bros. Foundation’s online Grants Portal. After, you may log in and begin your application. During phase one of your application, you’ll be asked to provide high-level information about your organization and the program for which you’re seeking funding. If the Foundation determines your request is aligned with our strategies, you will be asked to proceed to phase two to provide further details that will help us evaluate your application. Learn more about our process. NOTE: This page will be updated in July 2018 to include links to our soon-to-be-launched online Grants Portal and eligibility checklist. Learn More
6What is Polk Bros. Foundation's application process and timeline?
Detailed information about applying to Polk Bros. Foundation is available on Our Process page. 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. NOTE: This page will be updated in July 2018 to include links to our soon-to-be-launched online Grants Portal and eligibility checklist. Learn More
7When is the deadline for submitting a proposal?
There are no deadlines for the submission of proposals to the Polk Bros. Foundation. Applications are accepted year-round, scheduled in the order in which they are received and considered at quarterly board meetings. We generally recommend completing your two-phase application three to four months prior to the date of the board meeting.
8In the past, our proposals have been considered at the February board meeting. When should we apply in order to be considered in February?
Polk Bros. Foundation does not have submission deadlines. We generally recommend completing your two-phase application three to four months prior to the date of the board meeting. Thus, an application for the February meeting should be completed no later than the beginning of November. Because it is hard to predict the flow of applications for any given board meeting, we cannot guarantee that the proposal will be scheduled for February.
9What happens after we complete an application?
You will receive written confirmation that your application has been received. Once it is reviewed, you will be contacted by a program officer with additional questions or to schedule a site visit.
10What administrative costs do you cover?
Our grants can be used to cover the full costs of programs, including any direct program costs and the proportional share of administrative costs (including proportional rent, salaries, fundraising, and other overhead) that can be allocated to the program.
11Do you provide general operating support?
The Foundation's grants are most often program focused, but may be put toward the full range of program-related expenses. This might include the program’s proportional cost of renting and/or heating office space, providing transportation or meals to program participants as well as direct costs for program staff. The full-cost program budgets are intended to provide grantees with more flexibility within our grants.
12Do you provide funding for the production of documentaries about Chicago? Media campaigns? Research?
Generally, Polk Bros. Foundation makes grants only for systems improvement and direct services provided to Chicago communities of need, with a priority for those serving Chicago public school students and their families.
13Do you make grants to individual schools or charter schools?
Polk Bros. Foundation does not support tax-generating entities for services within their normal responsibilities. When it comes to individual schools, our preference and practice is to fund organizations that work with schools, not the schools themselves. We feel this gives us and the organizations we support more leverage to ensure results.
14How can I contact Polk Bros. Foundation?
Polk Bros. Foundation is located at 20 West Kinzie Street, Suite 1110, Chicago, IL 60654-5815. You can reach us at 312.527.4684 or info@polkbrosfdn.org.