Polk Bros. Foundation Grantmaking Guidelines

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.

Website and Program Area Guides

To illustrate the Foundation’s philosophy and preferences within particular program areas, we have developed this website and individual program area guides that identify our theories of change, describe strategies and program components we support and list evaluation criteria that we use during the review process. It is highly recommended that you review this website and the program area guides before applying.

Learn What We Fund
Review Polk Bros. Foundation Program Guides (PDF)

Our Process and Timeline

Detailed information about applying to the Foundation is available on the Our Process page. Polk Bros. Foundation accepts applications year-round and recommends keeping the timing noted in the charts on Our Process page in mind. We review applications in the order in which they are received, and consider them 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.

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 between $75,000 and $500,000. Organizations can generally receive up to five consecutive grants through the small grants program.

Applicants to Polk Bros. Foundation must have received a 501(c)(3) ruling from the Internal Revenue Service or, in rare cases, apply under the fiscal sponsorship of an organization that has one. The Foundation does not consider more than one request from an organization or its affiliates in a 12-month period, nor does it generally fund more than 8 percent of an organization’s operating budget.

Please note that if an interim executive director is in place, we may defer consideration of the organization’s proposal until a permanent replacement has been hired.

What We Don't Support

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 fundraising dinner or raffle tickets or advertising in dinner/gala programs
  • Medical, scientific or academic research
  • Grants to individuals
  • Tax-generating entities (including municipalities, school districts or individual schools) for services within their normal responsibilities

An organization that is new to Polk Bros. Foundation or has not already received login credentials for our online Grants Portal should first complete our eligibility checklist and, if eligible, register for access to our online Grants Portal.

Learn More about Our Process

Learn How to Apply

Explore our Current Grantmaking