Community Capital Grant Guidelines



Civil society organizations are the bedrock of Chicago’s non-governmental infrastructure, advancing the goal of a city that is connected, integrated, prosperous, and equitable. MacArthur reinforces this civic and community infrastructure by supporting strong organizations to fuel innovation, improve organizational effectiveness, and pursue opportunities for growth. Community Capital Grants provide organizations in the Chicago metropolitan area with funds to strengthen their operating and programmatic capacity.


In 2018 and possibly beyond, we anticipate awarding Community Capital Grants to organizations whose work increases safety, peace, and justice in Chicago communities. Specifically, awards will support organizations that pursue community-led safety initiatives, such as programs that expand street-level interventions and violence interruption; strengthen or expand mentoring for youth and young adults; test new approaches in these areas; and/or evaluate progress and success.  Activities should typically be based on evidence. Because not all successful or promising approaches have been rigorously evaluated, programs that pilot or test new or innovative approaches may also be supported.  

While fundamental, lasting change will take years to accomplish, we believe that strengthening organizations will help achieve short-term goals while making steady progress toward safety, peace, and justice throughout the city. This focus complements the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a civic partnership of more than 30 Chicago funders and foundations committed to supporting proven and promising responses to reduce violence.

From time to time, we will invite applications for Community Capital Grants to organizations working in other important areas of concern.  

Organizations selected for Community Capital Grants have a clear vision, mission, and goals. The communities they serve acknowledge them as successful; their leaders generously share their time and expertise with others; and they have a reputation for effective collaboration. These organizations and their leaders are resilient, generative, compassionate partners. They help educate, strengthen, and connect others, with a goal of tackling barriers and increasing the confidence, stability, power, and effectiveness of the community as a whole.

What We Fund

Possible uses may include:

  • Operating (or cash) reserve
  • Board reserve fund
  • Endowment
  • Innovation seed fund
  • Strategic and/or financial planning
  • Technology upgrades
  • Leadership development
  • Development planning
  • Communications support
  • Back-office collaboration
  • Consulting assistance 

Size and Duration of Awards

We award Community Capital Grants, which provide institutional support that organizations can use for:

  • Innovation, which may include testing a concept, launching a pilot project, or facilitating a new collaboration.
  • Strength, which may support professional development, or strategic, financial, and operational planning and investment. 
  • Growth, which may incorporate acquisitions, new investments, entry into new markets, or outreach to new audiences. Benefit Chicago, a collaboration of MacArthur, the Chicago Community Trust, and Calvert Impact Capital, is a compimentary initiative that supports growth through impact investments.

Awards for innovation may represent a one-time infusion of capital, while grants for strength and growth typically provide support for two to four years in an amount that does not exceed 10 percent of the organization's annual operating budget, with a maximum of $250,000 per year.

Selection Process

We anticipate considering Community Capital Grants in a single cycle, typically in the second quarter of each year.

In 2018 and possibly beyond, MacArthur staff and a group of civic and community leaders with broad and varied knowledge will nominate organizations for consideration for Community Capital Grants. This process will produce more organizations than we can support in a single year, but will bring effective organizations, many of which have may not previously been supported by the Foundation, to our attention. Applying the criteria, we will review the nominated organizations and narrow the pool to approximately 5-8 organizations each year.

We will invite organizations selected through this process to submit proposals. MacArthur staff will consider these requests, with final decisions made by the Foundation. Information about eligible organizations and types of work will be released annually.

In the future, we may consider other ways to identify applicants, such as outreach to organizations in a particular field, followed by submission of a letter of inquiry, review by an independent advisory committee, and final selection by the Foundation.

MacArthur staff and community leaders will be invited to nominate organizations for Community Capital awards. Organizations that wish to be considered for nomination may submit a brief description of their work through our grants portal. The ideal timeframe for submission is between September and November, as the nomination process typically begins in December for awards the following year.

In addition, we are eager to learn about organizations that have not previously received support. We welcome organizations to submit ideas for support through our grants portal. 


Updated June 2018

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