Who We Are
Polk Bros. Foundation is working to make Chicago a place where all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Together we envision a time when every Chicagoan can have a secure home, a job that pays a living wage, good health and access to resources that protect their rights. A time when every child is well educated, safe, supported by family and community, and has the opportunity to be inspired by the arts.
Polk Bros. Foundation is a private independent foundation dedicated to building and strengthening Chicago's families and communities, especially those most affected by poverty and inequity. 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.
Our Guiding Principles
Why and how we do our work is as important as what we do. At Polk Bros. Foundation, we are always guided by our beliefs and commitment to:
We take seriously our responsibility to Chicago and to all the people who live here. Transformational impact requires our commitment, ingenuity and courage.
- Community. We are all in this together. What happens to one of us affects us all. Change begins when we listen to, elevate, and celebrate the experience and work of the individuals and communities most impacted by poverty and inequity.
- Equity. Everyone deserves to achieve their potential. However, opportunity can only be fully available when we join with others to directly and intentionally address the effects and causes of structural racism, economic inequity and social disparities.
- Urgency. At its core, our work is about helping improve people’s lives. For this reason, we must be driven boldly and decisively to action, to push toward the Chicago that everyone deserves. By supporting the provision of critical services that people need now and concurrently investing in efforts to transform the systems that cause inequities, we can make the deepest impact.
By working together across neighborhoods and issues and sectors, Chicagoans are helping make our city a place where all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Joining and championing the efforts of the organizations and communities with which we partner — using all the tools at our disposal, including grants, assets, communications, collaborations, and network-building — is our focus.
- Respect and trust. We are guided by the knowledge that we are privileged to do this work. We have the utmost respect for the wisdom and expertise of our nonprofit partners, and we are energized by the ability to learn from them.
- Creativity. We are willing to think differently, invest in inspired ideas and approaches and take informed risks.
- Integrity and accountability. We hold ourselves to the highest standards for our work, and support nonprofits who set similar standards for themselves — and for us.
- Heart. With a sense of compassion, as well as joy and hope, we can be more effective, become better partners and find purpose in this serious work.
Polk Bros. Foundation’s staff and board have deep roots in Chicago’s communities. We work to bring diverse perspectives. We share a profound respect for the expertise of our nonprofit partners. And we are committed to working together toward a vision of Chicago where all people can reach their full potential.