PRI Grant Guidelines

Understand guideline and funding cycles

MacArthur publishes program guidelines to help applicants determine whether their idea for a grant fits within a particular grantmaking strategy.

As a general rule, applicants should base this decision on three related criteria that appear in program guidelines: the topical focus addressed by the grantmaking strategy; the geographic area covered by the grantmaking strategy; and, finally, the type of funding (i.e., general operating support, research, program support, etc.) that supports the grantmaking strategy.

Like most strategic grantmaking foundations, the MacArthur Foundation considers funding only those applications that closely match the topical, geographic, and funding criteria for a specific grantmaking strategy.

The Foundation is not accepting proposals for new Program-related Investments at this time.


Since 1986 the MacArthur Foundation has used program-related investments (PRIs) to expand the reach of its grantmaking, providing approximately $400 million to more than 200 recipients in the U.S. and around the world. The Foundation’s PRIs have supported nonprofits and for-profit businesses working in a range of fields, including health, conservation, education, independent media, affordable housing, and development finance. The vast majority have been directed toward increasing economic opportunity among low-income people and fostering vibrant, stable communities throughout the United States.

PRIs can be made in the form of loans, equity investments, bank deposits, and guarantees. Like traditional grants, PRIs are used to support charitable organizations or commercial ventures that fulfill a charitable purpose. Unlike grants, PRIs are designed to be repaid, usually along with a modest amount of interest or other financial return.

According to the applicable sections of the Internal Revenue Code and related Treasury regulations, the primary purpose of a PRI must be to advance a foundation’s charitable objectives. Further, neither the production of income nor appreciation of property can be a significant purpose of a PRI. In effect, this means that PRIs take the form of a below-market investment that would not be made by an ordinary investor.

The Foundation is a leading supporter and founding member of the  Mission Investors Exchange (, a national forum for networking, professional development, and funder collaboration that includes more than 200 foundations with a wide range of programmatic goals. The Network’s website provides informational resources on PRIs and other mission investing tools.

Questions about program-related investments can be addressed to Director of Program-Related Investments Debra Schwartz or Program Officer Allison Clark.

What MacArthur Funds

Major programs and initiatives supported by the Foundation’s program-related investments include the following:

Preserving Affordable Rental Housing

Our $150 million Window of Opportunity: Preserving Affordable Rental Housing initiative seeks to preserve and improve affordable rental housing nationwide by showing that preserving affordable rental housing is a cost-effective way to extend past investment in housing; strengthen families and communities; and encourage a wide mix of partners to invest in and preserve affordable rental housing. The initiative aims to yield the evidence, models, momentum, and leadership needed to generate policy reforms that position the preservation of affordable rental housing as critical to meeting the nation’s housing needs.

We provide grants and long-term, below-market loans to a portfolio of 25 large-scale, business-like, local, regional, and national nonprofit affordable housing owners in 37 states. We also support specialized financing vehicles across the country and public sector-led preservation efforts in Chicago, New York City, and 12 other states and localities; and fund policy analysis, data collection, and expert assistance to encourage investment in rental housing preservation and foster sound federal, state, and local policies. In addition, the Foundation is making a limited set of investments in energy efficiency standards, regulations and new resources and the multi-family rental housing sector. To date, Foundation resources have supported the preservation of more than 80,000 affordable homes across the country.

See Recent Grants for grants and program-related investments awarded.
Download a list of all Window of Opportunity PRI recipients.

Revitalizing and strengthening Chicago communities

Since 2005, the Foundation has committed PRIs totaling $65 million to stimulate public and private sector investment in Chicago neighborhoods and advance the work of the MacArthur-supported New Communities Program.

These commitments include support for seven leading community development financial institutions, $10 million to help finance the transformation of Chicago’s troubled public housing into new, mixed-income communities, and $42 million for a special Foreclosure Prevention and Mitigation Project.

The special foreclosure prevention and mitigation project, launched in October 2008, helped residents of hard-hit neighborhoods stay in their homes or secure favorable financing to rent or purchase a redeveloped, previously foreclosed home.  Major PRI funding provided through this project include the National Community Stabilization Trust, Self-Help Ventures  and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago.

Boosting the scale and impact of leading community development financial institutions

Community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, are a leading source of innovative, market-based solutions for economically distressed communities and underserved people across the United States. Serving all 50 states, CDFIs, which include revolving loan funds, venture funds, banks and credit unions, provide more than $5 billion annually in loans, investments and financial services to urban, rural, and Native communities. This financing directly benefits low-income and low-wealth people by increasing their access to homeownership opportunities, affordable rental housing, thriving small businesses and critical services such as childcare, healthcare and education.

The track record of the CDFI industry over its 30-year history is impressive. CDFIs focus on markets and borrowers that most conventional financial institutions consider too risky or difficult to serve, yet their cumulative losses have totaled just 1.1 percent.

The MacArthur Foundation has been a leading supporter of the CDFI field, providing approximately $250 million in grant and PRI support since the mid-1980s. In 2007, the Foundation awarded its largest PRI — $25 million — to create the Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance and made an additional $5 million PRI in 2012.  The Opportunity Finance Network  has run this program since its inception and Wells Fargo has contributed $47 million in grant support. 

With the creation of the NEXT Awards, the Foundation is no longer making direct investments in CDFIs.

Updated September 4, 2012