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 charitable foundation that supports evidence-informed policies to improve quality of life, promote safe and healthy communities, and build a just society for the people of the Great Lakes region.

We make grants in five program areas united by a common purpose: to secure a more prosperous and equitable future for the Great Lakes region by supporting the next generation of its citizens while advancing racial equity and economic mobility.

Established in Chicago in 1948, the foundation focuses most of its grant making in six Great Lakes states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin -- a region often at the core of America’s debates about economic, social, and governance issues.  We also look for opportunities in other states or the federal government to explore promising policy solutions that could have an impact in our region or in other parts of the country.

The Joyce Foundation will make approximately $50 million in charitable distributions in 2018, from total assets of $1 billion.

Our History

The Joyce Foundation was established by Beatrice Joyce Kean of Chicago, the sole heir of the Joyce family of Clinton, Iowa, which built a fortune in the lumber industry.

During Mrs. Kean’s lifetime, the foundation had modest assets, and was a vehicle for her personal charitable giving to such institutions as hospitals, universities, and the Community Fund (now United Way). Upon her death, Mrs. Kean left 90 percent of her estate to the Joyce Foundation – more than $100 million. Employees from the family lumber company and its attorneys stepped in to run the foundation, supporting work generally connected to her interests, including 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 for 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; a few years later the foundation launched a program on gun violence that advocated for a preventive, public health approach to the problem. The foundation has continued through the years 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.


Our five program strategies advance five policy areas we see as essential to our mission: Education and Economic Mobility, the Environment, Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform, Democracy, and Culture. Our program strategies for the grant-making cycle running from January 2018 through December 2020 are as follows.


Our Education & Economic Mobility Program focuses on helping young people move up the economic ladder through equitable access to high-quality education and jobs. 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 postsecondary credentials that lead to careers with family-sustaining wages.


The goal of our Environment Program is to address environmental challenges facing the next generation in the Great Lakes region. We support solutions to the critical long-term challenges of climate change and the health of the Great Lakes, as well as policies ensuring access for all to safe, clean, affordable drinking water.


Our Gun Violence Prevention & Justice System Reform Program promotes safe and just communities through support for stronger policies to reduce gun violence, 21st century policing to build greater police-community trust, and decreased incarceration of young gun offenders.


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: expanding voter access and participation through fair elections, and support for strong, independent media to inform policy making, hold government accountable, and motivate public engagement. 


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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