Grant proposals are considered at meetings of the Foundation’s Board of Directors in April, July, and December. Deadline dates are:

Proposal Deadline 

April 11, 2018

August 8, 2018

December 5, 2018

Board Meeting

July 2018

December 2018 

April 2019

Email letters of inquiry, proposals, and grant reports:

Applicants are strongly encouraged to plan their application and proposal submission process for the April or July meetings, since most grant funds will be distributed at those times.

For the Culture Program:

Joyce Awards Letter of Intent (LOI) Deadline: 
April 12, 2018

Artists and arts organizations interested in applying for the Joyce Awards can get more information here.


It has recently come to the attention of the Joyce Foundation that Facebook accounts falsely claiming to be affiliated with the Joyce Foundation are contacting individuals through Facebook Messenger offering to provide them with cash grants from the Foundation. The fraudulent account holders may ask for an upfront payment of several hundred dollars to process the so-called “cash grants” or to “pay only the taxes on them.” The Joyce Foundation has reported this activity to law enforcement and to Facebook to put an end to this criminal activity. Please be advised that the Joyce Foundation does not award grants in this fashion. If you are contacted through Facebook Messenger by an individual claiming to be able to arrange a Joyce Foundation cash grant, it is recommended that you block the account and report it to Facebook and local law enforcement authorities. If you have questions about any individual claiming to be affiliated with the Joyce Foundation, you may contact the Foundation at 312-782-2464. Thank you.

What We Fund

The Joyce Foundation is committed to improving public policy through its grant making program. We focus on initiatives that promise to have an impact on the Great Lakes region, specifically the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Our program areas are Culture, Democracy, Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, and Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform.


  • We make grants to diverse organizations such as academic and research institutions, grassroots and advocacy groups, policy institutes, news media and others.
  • We support research to develop or test new policy ideas, advance them, assist in their implementation, evaluate how they are working and where improvements are needed.
  • We look for opportunities to support broad, systemic changes that affect the most people over the long run.
  • We do not generally support capital proposals, endowment campaigns, religious activities, commercial ventures, direct service programs, or scholarships.

Accordingly, the Foundation welcomes grant requests from organizations that engage in public policy advocacy. Federal tax law prohibits private foundations from funding lobbying activities. The Foundation may support organizations engaged in public policy advocacy by either providing general operating support or by funding educational advocacy such as nonpartisan research, technical assistance, or examinations of broad social issues. The Foundation encourages grant applicants to describe the nature of advocacy activities in their grant applications and reports, so the Foundation can ensure that it is in compliance with federal tax laws. For further information on the relevant federal tax laws, grant applicants should consult their tax advisors.

See Grantmaking Guidelines


Explore our resources for grant making.

Learn more

How To Apply

Learn about our submission process for applying for a grant.

Learn more

Advocacy Rules

Read our guidelines for organizations working in public policy.

Learn More

Our Grantees

See what our grantees are working on.

Learn more

Grantmaking Guidelines



Please tell me more about your focus on public policy.

We focus our grant making on initiatives that promise to have an influence on public policies. This includes advancing the public debate about important policy issues, development and testing of new policy ideas, and evaluations that help policymakers understand how policies are working and where improvements are needed. We believe such policy initiatives can lead to broad, systemic changes that affect the most people over the long run.

Do you fund communications (e.g., books, publications, videos, documentaries, web sites)?

We look for a strong communications plan in any proposal designed to influence public policy. We generally don’t fund communications efforts that are unrelated to specific policy initiatives.

Do you fund research?

We fund research that is likely to have a strong impact on public policy in our program areas. See individual programs for more information. We do not fund basic research.

Do you fund scholarships, fellowships, capital or endowment campaigns, buildings, religious activities, or small business startups?


Do you fund government agencies and programs?

We generally make grants only to nonprofit organizations. However, we occasionally fund government initiatives that promise to lead to statewide policy changes.

Do you fund national organizations?

We make grants to national organizations for projects that promise to have a significant impact on public policies affecting the Great Lakes region.

Do you make grants outside the United States?

Our grant making is limited to organizations whose work affects the Great Lakes region of the United States. A few grants are made to Canadian environmental organizations working on Great Lakes issues.

Do you provide general operating support or must we apply for specific project funds?

We generally fund projects, but in rare cases we provide general operating support.

Do you do program-related investments?

No, not at present.

Whom can I contact to talk to about my proposal?

Please start by reviewing our program areas or our How to Apply page to get a sense of how your proposal fits with Joyce funding priorities. If your proposal fits with our priorities, please send an email to the attention of the appropriate program officer to

How long does it take from the time I send a proposal until a decision is made whether to fund it?

For information on schedules, please review our review process.

Is it really necessary to send a letter of inquiry? Can’t I just save time and send the proposal?

Yes, sending an inquiry letter is required. It helps applicants target proposals better and saves time that would otherwise go into preparing and reviewing proposals that may not fit within our funding priorities.

Would it help if I contacted a member of your board of directors?

The directors of the Foundation have requested that they not be contacted individually regarding proposals.

Is there a maximum size for grants?

No. The size of grants depends on the organization’s overall budget and the scope of the proposed work. To get a sense of the range of our grants, we suggest you review previous grants made by the Joyce Foundation.

How long after a grant is approved will we get the money?

Grant payments are normally made at the end of the month following the board meeting at which the funding decision was made.

Where did the Joyce Foundation get its money?

The Joyce family wealth was based on lumber and sawmill interests. More background is available here.

Education & Economic Mobility

To ensure our young people are prepared for the future and are economically mobile, the Joyce Foundation will work to ensure equitable access to high-quality education and jobs. We will focus our efforts on young people of color and those from low-income backgrounds. We will advance policies that ensure K–12 students attend schools with high-quality educators, graduate high school with the momentum they need to be successful in college, and attain college credentials that lead to careers with family-sustaining wages. We also will invest in emerging ideas in innovative K–12 schools and reform efforts, and emerging ideas on how the safety net and workforce development will need to adapt to a changing economic milieu.

Educator Quality: The Joyce Foundation will work to ensure that students, especially those of color and those who are low-income, attend schools where high-quality teachers and principals work together to create strong learning environments. We will support efforts to improve federal, state, and district policies that ensure students have teachers and principals who are highly trained, properly evaluated, and well supported in their professional growth. We will focus our educator quality investments mainly on Chicago, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis school districts and on state policies in Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota. We will have two focus areas:

  • Teachers: We will work across the pipeline. In teacher preparation, we’ll work to ensure states and teacher preparation programs use data for accountability and improvement, and that school districts/states and teacher training programs work together to align teacher supply and demand, especially around STEM and ELL teachers. We will work on policies that ensure teachers have high-quality evaluations, and on policies aimed at retaining top talent, including teacher leadership/career ladder models. We also will support efforts to empower teachers and build their voice into policy conversations.
  • Principals: We will support evidence-based policy reforms aimed at ensuring principals have the autonomy and data they need to lead schools with strong learning cultures focused on improving teaching and learning.

Pathways to College Credentials and Careers: In order to increase the economic mobility of low-income and minority students, the Joyce Foundation will support state and federal policy work to: (1) better prepare students for college and career through early college credits, work-based learning, and high school interventions to reduce college remediation; (2) increase the likelihood that low-income and minority students will complete credentials or degrees of economic value at the institutions they attend; and (3) increase access and success for low-income and minority students in the public institutions with the highest economic payoffs.

Innovation:  Our rapidly changing economy demands innovative thinking in both K–12 education and the labor market. The Joyce Foundation will support efforts to reimagine K–12 schools and policy reforms. On the labor market side of the equation, the Joyce Foundation will support (1) state policies that simultaneously increase regional economic competitiveness, support middle-class job growth, and develop a workforce of the future and (2) state safety net policies that mitigate the impact of these troubling trends on hard-hit populations

Education & Economic Mobility FAQ

Can you contribute to our scholarship (or fellowship) program? 

We do not fund scholarships, fellowships, school voucher programs, and similar programs that primarily benefit individuals. Our focus is on school change strategies affecting public schools.

Can you help us build our new school by contributing to our capital campaign?

We do not fund capital campaigns.

Do you fund private schools? Religious schools? Home schooling programs? 

Our funding is limited to programs affecting public schools.

Do you fund schools or school districts?

The Foundation does not directly fund individual schools or school districts. We fund institutions and organizations that strive to improve education in public schools.

Do you fund research? 

We fund research that is likely to have a strong impact on public policy

Can you support our job-training program?

We do not provide operating support for direct services, including job-training and placement services. Our funding concentrates on initiatives designed to develop and shape public policies.

Do you fund government agencies and programs? 

We generally make grants only to nonprofit organizations. However, we occasionally fund government initiatives that promise to lead to statewide system or policy changes.

Do you fund community economic development? 

Only where there is clear overlap with our focus on public policies that support workforce development, education, and job training.

Can you help pay for me to get education or training?

The Foundation does not provide direct support for individual training, scholarships, or fellowship programs. 


To improve the prospects for the next generation in the Great Lakes region, the Joyce Foundation will address two of the region’s critical long-term environmental challenges: climate change and the health of the Great Lakes.

Climate change is the biggest intergenerational threat to our communities and our planet. Failure to address it would hinder progress across all sectors. Joyce will advance public policies that promote practical climate solutions, including pursuing clean energy strategies specifically designed to remedy economic and equity issues facing the next generation in our region.

For more than two decades, Joyce has been a leading funder of policy work related to the Great Lakes. The Foundation will continue to pursue efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes, and add grants to help ensure that everyone in our region shares the most fundamental benefit of the Great Lakes: clean, safe, affordable drinking water. 

The Joyce Foundation seeks to support people from highly impacted communities to participate in environmental policy processes. Moreover, applicants pursuing efforts to integrate values of racial equity, social justice, inclusion, and diversity throughout their organization are invited to describe their efforts and how additional support from Joyce for those efforts would help achieve their goals.

Proposals should include a clear plan for tracking progress over the next year, the next three years, and the next five years. The Foundation is interested in long-term goals for all projects, including those where short-term funding is requested. Applicants requesting funds to advance policy goals are invited to review this environmental policy advocacy benchmarking guide for ideas about tracking progress.

Climate Solutions

The Joyce Foundation believes the Great Lakes region can and should be a leader in fighting climate change by accelerating the transition to clean energy systems. To that end, the Foundation will support work in two areas:

1) Accelerating adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy through state utility policies. This will include efforts to defend and fully implement the Future Energy Jobs Act in Illinois, the new utility policies adopted in Michigan in December 2016, and existing utility energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements in Minnesota and Ohio; and to leverage “utility of the future” planning processes in Illinois and Ohio to set the stage for aggressive decarbonization of the region’s electric sector during the 2020s and 2030s.

2) Capturing the benefits of advanced transportation technologies. This will include efforts to develop equitable surface transportation system decarbonization plans in select Great Lakes cities; to secure adoption of local and state policies to begin implementing those plans; and to develop and secure adoption of electric vehicle charging infrastructure policies for Great Lakes states to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles while protecting low-income utility customers and those who do not own cars.

Great Lakes

The Joyce Foundation seeks to ensure that the next generation in our region will have healthy Great Lakes and clean water from lake to tap. Accordingly, the Foundation will support work in three areas:

1) Addressing three major threats to the Great Lakes: polluted runoff from cities and farms, aquatic invasive species, and surface water diversions. This will include efforts to reduce phosphorus loads to Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2050; to advance utility, municipal, and state policies that expand green infrastructure and reduce urban flooding; to preserve strong federal and state ballast water standards; to prevent the movement of Asian Carp through the Chicago Area Waterways; and to enforce the Great Lakes Compact.

2) Strengthening state and federal policies that restore the Great Lakes and improve the region’s water infrastructure systems. This will include supporting the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and federal and state water infrastructure funding; efforts to create and implement tools that allow cities and water utilities to improve water systems; and exploring new governance and business models to help water utilities deliver efficient, high-quality, affordable water services.

3) Ensuring that everyone has access to clean, safe, affordable drinking water. This will include efforts to improve the effectiveness of communications about the risks of lead exposure in water; to advance policies that reduce the risk of drinking water lead exposure in places frequented by children; to remove barriers to full lead service line replacement; and to develop and implement affordability policies that ensure all residents can access high quality water services.

Environment FAQ

Do you fund environmental education? 

Our focus is on improving public policy. We generally don’t fund environmental education, videos, etc., either through educational institutions or aimed at the general public.

Do you fund local cleanup efforts?

The Foundation generally does not support local-impact projects such as environmental cleanup activities.

Do you fund conservation projects, either of wildlife or of land?

We generally do not fund efforts to preserve individual species or to restore or purchase land. Our priority is public policies that affect the environment of the Great Lakes region more broadly.

Do you support scientific research on environmental problems?

We generally do not support basic scientific research. We do fund some research projects that are closely linked to efforts to impact public policy.

Do you fund electric vehicle charging stations, lead service line replacement, or other infrastructure projects?

We generally do not fund infrastructure projects. In some instances, we support green infrastructure programs that help validate its performance and cost effectiveness to inform policy.

Given your focus on the Great Lakes region, do you give grants to national organizations? 

We make grants to national organizations for projects that target public policies affecting the Great Lakes region.

Do you provide in-state grants in New York and Pennsylvania?

No, we do not make in-state grants in New York or Pennsylvania. Our grant making portfolio establishes a focus in the Midwestern states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Do you fund conferences?

We rarely fund conferences. Exceptions would be made only in connection with broader projects the Foundation is already funding.

Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform

Gun violence is one of the central health and safety challenges of our time, with more than 110,000 Americans injured or killed by guns every year. Gun violence in all its forms—community violence, domestic violence, mass shootings, suicide, and accidental gun deaths and injuries—undermines the ability of the next generation to thrive. In urban areas, the impact of gun violence is experienced most acutely by young people of color and their families and communities. At the same time, lack of trust between police and community members and an overreliance on incarceration for even nonviolent offenders further weaken communities and compromise public safety. The Joyce Foundation makes grants to promote safe and just communities in the Great Lakes region through evidence-based policy and systems reform in the following areas:

Focus Area 1: Gun Violence Prevention: To reduce deaths and injuries from gun violence, the Foundation supports efforts in the Great Lakes Region to strengthen state gun violence prevention policies to reduce easy access to guns by those at risk of violence; educate young people about the risks of guns; use the courts to advance gun violence prevention; conduct research and improve data collection to inform gun violence prevention policy and practice; and increase funding for gun violence prevention.

Focus Area 2: 21st Century Policing: To build police-community trust, promote legitimacy and improve public safety, we will support initiatives to advance local reform initiatives in Great Lakes police departments; improve state policies to promote 21st century policing; and conduct and disseminate research on best practices for reform.

Focus Area 3: Reduce Mass Incarceration: With the goals of reducing incarceration of young people while reducing gun violence in the Great Lakes region, the Foundation will fund data collection and research on the criminal justice system’s response to gun violence; evaluation of local city or county pilot initiatives to use alternatives to incarceration for young nonviolent gun offenders; and advocacy for evidence-based state policies to reduce incarceration for young offenders as a response to gun violence.

Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform FAQ

Justice reform proposals will be accepted by invitation only until further notice.

Do you fund school or community based programs in violence prevention?

We generally do not fund such programs.

Do you fund programs related to crime policy and criminal justice?

We support efforts to improve the fairness of the criminal justice system and improve public safety.   We support efforts to engage law enforcement leaders, members of impacted communities, researchers, and other stakeholders in gun violence prevention and justice reform.

Do you fund state or local gun violence prevention initiatives outside the Midwest?

The Gun Violence Prevention Program makes grants to select initiatives in Pennsylvania 

Do you fund grassroots organizations in the Midwest?

We fund such groups only for projects we consider likely to have a substantial impact on public policy. Requests from Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are given priority.

Please tell me more about your focus on policy and systems change.

We focus our grant making on initiatives that promise to inform policy development, advocacy and implementation, and that seek to improve the public sector institutions that impact gun violence and the criminal justice system. That includes advancing the public debate about important policy issues, most notably those that reduce access to firearms by those at greatest risk of violence and those that improve the fairness of the justice system. We believe such policy initiatives can lead to broad, systemic changes that affect the most people over the long run.

Do you provide general operating support, or must we apply for specific project funds 

We generally fund projects, but we also occasionally provide general operating support.


The mission of the Culture program is to inspire creativity and cultural stewardship in the next generation of Great Lakes residents by strengthening the role of artists and arts organizations in fostering culturally vibrant and sustainable communities. We seek partners that share commitment to eliminate barriers to arts engagement; grow a skilled arts workforce that is reflective of the region’s full talent pool; and support the role of artists as makers, facilitators and problem-solvers.  Our funding will focus on the following areas:

Arts Access and Participation: The Foundation supports efforts to strengthen arts presenting, engagement and non-curricular instruction capacity at (or in partnership with) neighborhood-based arts organizations that predominantly serve low-income or culturally specific communities. We seek proposals that will reduce the costs of or distance to high quality arts experiences (productions, presentations, exhibitions, learning, etc.) in communities with limited arts access. In addition, we welcome proposals from arts and cultural organizations located in these communities seeking to expand or improve their programmatic and/or operational capacity. We also welcome research and evidence-based initiatives that seek to better understand the impact of arts access on individual life and community outcomes. 

Arts Leadership and Workforce: The Foundation supports initiatives focusing on the career exposure, education, preparation or placement of racially underrepresented arts administrators, board members, stewards, funders and creative industry workers for institutional or sector positions in Chicago. We seek proposals that focus on growing and diversifying the ranks of skilled employees in Chicago’s arts and creative sectors (executive and artistic directors, managers, curators, critics, teaching artists, production assistants, technicians, craftspeople, etc.) through career exposure, job training and professional development opportunities.  Additionally, we welcome proposals that seek to ensure that the makeup of cultural institution boards and arts funding bodies are reflective of regional and national demographics.    

Creativity and Cultural Production:  The Foundation supports initiatives to heighten and expand the artistic practice, public awareness, critical audience, and institutional and market access of artists of color and their artworks.

Culture FAQ

Do you support arts education programs?

We do not support curricular arts education. However, we may consider initiatives that provide high quality non-curricular, community-based arts instruction to adults and families who may have limited access otherwise. 

Do you fund the work of individual artists?

We do not award grants to individuals. Grants are made to organizations for projects that support the work of individual artists.

Do you provide general operating support, or must we apply for specific project funds?

Requests for general operating support should be made only after preliminary discussion with program staff. In general, Culture grants are for specific projects.

Do you fund capital development projects?

We generally do not make grants for capital campaigns. 

Do you fund endowment support?

We do not make grants for endowment support 

Do you fund arts organizations outside Chicago?

Culture grantmaking is limited primarily to organizations within Chicago’s city limits. The one exception is the Joyce Awards program, which includes Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

What arts the steps to requesting funding and what should be included at each stage?

Requests for Culture Program funding begins with a Letter of Intent (LOI). LOIs should include: an overview of the organization and a brief history of its work; the focus area for which the organization is applying (Access and Participation, Arts Leadership and Workforce, or Creativity and Cultural Production); a brief summary of the work intended and how it is aligned to the targeted focus area; a draft budget; the amount of funds being requested from the Joyce Foundation and how they would be allocated.

For the Joyce Awards LOI, please include information about the organization, the artist, the proposed commission, project timeframe, budget, and why this is an important piece to be created at this time in the artist’s career, with this institution, and in this community.

Organizations whose LOIs demonstrate clear alignment with Culture Program priorities will be invited to submit full proposals.

Can I receive feedback on my LOI?

Due to demand, we cannot offer feedback on how best to prepare an LOI or on why it was declined. However, should a full proposal be invited we will schedule a lengthy call to provide feedback based on the initial review 

When are LOIs and Full Proposals due?

General timelines for the submission of LOIs and full proposals are provided on the Joyce Foundation website. As a reminder, full proposals are by invitation only and are requested upon review of an LOI. Contact the Foundation if you are unsure of the LOI deadline.

Questions regarding Joyce Awards:

What percentage of funds needs to be allocated to the artist for the Joyce Awards?

We do not have a specific guideline for the funds allocated to the artist.

When would we know if we have received a Joyce Award?

Organizations are notified after projects have been approved by our board of directors at the winter meeting, generally in early December. Notification of approval is confidential as we work to make a single announcement of all the awards.

Does a Joyce Award-winning artist have to be from the Midwest?

No. The nominated artist can be from anywhere in the world.

Are there page limits/requirements for the Executive Summary or Project Description for a Joyce Awards application?

There are no page limits or requirements for the proposal.

Can we submit a CD or PowerPoint presentation of artist images for a Joyce Awards application?

Links are preferred.

Does a Joyce Awards proposal have to arrive in your office on the deadline?

Yes. The proposal, as well as all supporting documentation, should be submitted via email by the given deadline.


The goal of this program is to strengthen our democracy by ensuring that it is built on citizen access—access to information from a strong, independent and trusted media, access to meaningful engagement in policymaking, and most of all, access to the ballot. We will make grants to strengthen evidence-based public policies to strengthen democracy in the Great Lakes region in the following areas: 

Fair Elections: The Foundation supports research, public engagement and litigation strategies to strengthen election administration policies that expand access to the ballot as well as efforts to challenge restrictive voting measures in the Great Lakes region. The Foundation also supports strategies to reform the redistricting process through public engagement and litigation efforts.

Media: The Foundation supports local, state and national media, primarily nonprofit, covering issues in the Great Lakes region related to Joyce program areas. Joyce also supports professional development, trainings and other opportunities for journalists to expand their understanding of issues in the Joyce grant portfolio.

Democracy FAQ

Given your principal focus on Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, do you make grants to national organizations? 

Grants to organizations not in the Great Lakes region must be for projects that strengthen the capacity of state-based groups in our region.

What types of media grantmaking do you support?

We support primarily nonprofit media organizations that cover issues in the Great Lakes region related to Joyce program areas. Our grantmaking also aims to support a healthy media ecosystem in the region. We selectively fund national media for coverage of critical issues. Funded platforms have included digital news organizations, radio, and podcasts.

Do you fund grassroots organizing?

We fund organizing efforts that are part of broader initiatives, consistent with our program guidelines, to improve public policies 

Do you provide general operating support, or must we apply for specific project funds?

We generally provide funds for specific projects.

Special Opportunities

The Special Opportunities Program gives the Foundation a measure of flexible funding with which to respond to important opportunities outside or across the Foundation’s core giving programs, or to develop new ideas and promote innovation in how the Foundation and its grantees operate.

Special Opportunities fund is used to explore or support:

  • Communications and media-related grants to raise the visibility of Joyce issues and grantees with policy makers, journalists, and opinion leaders
  • Efforts to help Joyce grantees use new media tools for education and engagement
  • Exploration of cross-programmatic innovations

Special Opportunities FAQ

Does any project qualify for support, or must my project fall within Joyce funding priorities?

The Special Opportunities Program gives the Foundation a measure of flexible funding with which to respond to important opportunities outside or across the Foundation’s core giving programs, or to develop new ideas and promote innovation in how the Foundation and its grantees operate.

Special Opportunities fund is used to explore or support:

  • Communications and media-related grants to raise the visibility of Joyce issues and grantees with policy makers, journalists, and opinion leaders
  • Efforts to help Joyce grantees use new media tools for education and engagement
  • Exploration of cross-programmatic innovations

Do you make grants to individuals?


Are special opportunity grants renewable?

Special Opportunity grants are generally non-renewable.

Who do non-profits direct a Special Opportunities LOI to?

Please send to