Beatrice Joyce Kean

Beatrice Joyce Kean (1923-1972) became sole heir to the Joyce family lumber fortune at 21, and in 1948, at age 25, established the Joyce Foundation. Described as a very private person, she was regarded as a savvy businesswoman with a sharp grasp of the operations of the family companies. When chairing corporate board meetings, she displayed what one contemporary called “the ability to cut to the heart of matters under discussion or dispute.”

About Us

The Joyce Foundation is a nonpartisan private foundation that invests in public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

We support policy research, development, and advocacy in five areas: Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, Democracy, and Culture. Joyce focuses its grant making in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and partners with funders to explore promising policy solutions in other states or at the federal level.

The Joyce Foundation has budgeted 2018 charitable distributions of $50 million on assets of approximately $1 billion. 

Our History

The Joyce Foundation was established in 1948 by Beatrice Joyce Kean of Chicago, the sole heir of the Joyce family of Clinton, Iowa, which built its wealth in the lumber and related industries.

During Mrs. Kean’s lifetime, the foundation had modest assets, and was chiefly a vehicle for her personal charitable giving to hospitals, universities, and the Community Fund (now United Way). Upon her death in 1972, Mrs. Kean left 90 percent of her estate to the Joyce Foundation – more than $100 million. Executives from the family lumber company and its attorneys stepped in to run the foundation initially, supporting work generally connected to her interests and conservation of natural resources.

In 1978, the foundation hired its first professional executive director, Charles U. Daly. By that time Mrs. Kean’s estate had been settled, and the foundation reported assets that year of more than $125 million and grants of more than $7.5 million.  Mr. Daly and his successors focused the foundation’s work on addressing major problems facing the Midwest region, including protecting the Great Lakes, improving educational and economic opportunities for disadvantaged residents, supporting cultural organizations, and improving public policies and public participation in government. Health-related grants in the 1980s were eventually phased out, and in the early 1990s the foundation launched a program to reduce gun violence using a preventive, public health approach.

The foundation has continued to evaluate and adjust its grant making to reflect critical issues in the Great Lakes region, given room by its 1948 charter to grow and develop with the times. Its grant making is guided by values reflected in its mission statement:

The mission of the Joyce Foundation is to support policies that improve quality of life, promote safe and healthy communities, and build a just society for the people of the Great Lakes region.

Our Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Joyce Foundation is committed to advancing racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation of the Great Lakes region. This commitment is reflected in our strategic grant-making priorities, which aim to address structural barriers to social and economic progress and improve outcomes for low-income individuals and young people of color. It is also reflected in our business operations, as we work to measure the impact of our grant making, staffing, and contracting with the goal of creating greater, more equitable opportunities for people of color. Our work on this front is ongoing. We are committed to aligning our policies, practices, and resources to foster equitable opportunity for all. 


Our program strategies for the grant-making cycle running from January 2018 through December 2020 are as follows.


Our Education & Economic Mobility Program works to ensure equitable access to high-quality education and jobs for the region’s next generation, especially young people of color and those from low-income communities. We pursue policies to ensure that K-12 students attend schools with high-quality educators, graduate with the momentum they need to succeed in college, and attain post-secondary credentials that lead to careers with family-sustaining wages.


Our Environment Program supports science-based policy to address two critical long-term challenges facing the next generation in the Great Lakes region: the impact of climate change and access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. We are working to accelerate the transition to clean energy and ensure the next generation will have clean water from lake to tap.


Our Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform Program promotes safe and just communities through support for research, education, advocacy, and engagement focused on three initiatives: stronger policies to restrict easy accessibility of guns, 21st century policing to build greater police-community trust, and reducing the over-reliance on incarceration of young people.


The Joyce Democracy Program promotes an informed, engaged, and representative democracy acting in the public interest, in which all citizens have a stake. We focus on strategies in two areas: fair elections and public interest media. Our fair elections focus area includes voting rights, expanded ballot access, a well-funded and accurate 2020 census, and redistricting reform. Our media grant making focuses on ensuring a vibrant, independent media ecosystem in the Great Lakes region that informs elections and policy making and holds government accountable.


The goal of our 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 look for opportunities to promote arts access and creativity, and build organizational and community capacity in the arts through a commitment equity, diversity, and inclusion capturing demographic shifts in the region.


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 direct service programs, capital proposals, endowment campaigns, religious activities, commercial ventures, or scholarships.

Find more information here about our grants and funding guidelines. 

What We Fund

We focus on initiatives that make an impact on the Great Lakes region.

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For The Media

Explore our resources for members of the media.

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Our Annual Reports

Explore our annual reports.

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