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Community Grants Program

Grant Information Grant Status: Closed Applications Open: June 20, 2023 Applications Close: August 15, 2023 Awards Announced: Week of November 20, 2023

CFNIL staff will host two Grantseekers Meetings to provide information and updates about this year's Community Grants cycle. Each session will include identical content and provide time for questions and answers.

  1. Session 1: IN PERSON at Nicholas Conservatory (1354 N Second Street, Rockford), Thursday, June 22nd, 3:30 PM
  2. Session 2: VIRTUAL via Zoom, Friday, June 23rd, 9:00 AM

Please Note: there will be significant structural changes to this year's application. Applicants are highly recommended to attend to learn and ask questions about these changes, whether or not they attended last year. 

RSVP for 2023 Grantseekers Meetings

Since 1953, the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois has made more than $80,000,000 in grants and scholarships to nonprofits and students. This is possible through the generosity of CFNIL’s donors—individuals, families, and organizations committed to improving the region’s quality of life. Endowed gifts create reliable funding for current needs and future opportunities. That’s the power of endowment!

Some donors choose to support specific organizations, while others provide scholarship funding that helps students get to and through school. Some donors decide that they want their legacy gifts to address the challenges and opportunities of future generations. These endowed gifts support Community Grants, CFNIL’s largest and broadest grantmaking program.

CFNIL is pleased to continue its tradition of grantmaking with the Fall 2023 Community Grants cycle. This page reflects our 2022 Grant Guidelines document, and will be updated with 2023 guidelines and details as they are available. Community Grants are made in six Focus Areas: Arts & Humanities, Education, Health, Human Services, Sustainable Communities, and Youth & Families. Within Education, CFNIL’s strategy is to invest in complementary education and career pathways, and to support a regional education system that continually produces healthy and productive citizens. 

View the Grant Resources page to learn more about applying

We rely on your feedback to guide our grantmaking process. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or comments. While we would be happy to clarify any aspect of our application, CFNIL does not offer specific guidance on the design or implementation of your proposed activity during the open application period.

Download Community Grants Program Resource Documents

PLEASE NOTE: These details will be updated to reflect the 2023 application as the details are available.

2022 Community Grants Guidelines


2022 Community Grants Application Questions - PDF Version


2022 Grantseekers Meeting Presentation Slides


2022 Community Grants Application Questions - Word Version
**includes instructions to use the Preview function in the online application

2022 Grantseekers Meeting Presentation Recording


2022 - 2023 Community Grants Report


Review Community Grants Program Guidelines

PLEASE NOTE: These details will be updated to reflect the 2023 application as the details are available.

PLEASE NOTE: These details will be updated to reflect the 2023 application as the details are available.

The application for Community Grants has seven sections:

  1. Summary: Asks for basic information about your organization and proposal, including your proposal’s Focus Area
  2. Proposal Plan: Asks for a detailed description of your activity, including any collaboration between your organization and other entities using the Collective Impact model
  3. Proposal Budget: Asks for a detailed proposal budget and narrative
  4. Community Need: Asks why your activity is needed and who it will serve in terms of location, age, ethnicity, and gender
  5. Measuring Results: Asks about your charitable activity’s anticipated results and your plan to track and measure those results
  6. Organizational Capacity: Asks for information about your organization’s staff, history, mission, and finances, including information from your 990 or another relevant financial document
  7. Grant Agreement: States the terms and conditions of applying for and administering a grant from CFNIL’s Community Grants Program

The Summary and Grant Agreement sections are not scored by grant reviewers. The Measuring Results, Community Need, Proposal Plan, Proposal Budget, and Organizational Capacity section are scored on a 1 – 5 scale by grant reviewers. The Measuring Results and Proposal Plan sections receive weighted scores.

While all applications must be submitted through the Web Portal, CFNIL provides a PDF and Word versions of the application. Many applicants find it easier to initially work on the application in Word then copy and paste responses into the Web Portal. 

Download the PDF version of the application.

Download the Word version of the application

PLEASE NOTE: These details will be updated to reflect the 2023 application as the details are available.

CFNIL accepts proposals in the following Focus Areas. Generally, 50% of CFNIL’s grants will be allocated for Education, while 10% will be for each of the following Focus Areas: Arts & Humanities, Health, Human Services, Sustainable Communities, and Youth & Families.

Many donors have created named funds which support the Community Grants Program. Some of the funds support specific populations or grantmaking that falls within one more more specific Focus Areas. You may view the full list of these named funds on our Donor Named Funds page.

1. Arts & Humanities

CFNIL funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Increase the availability of and access to artistic and cultural experiences, especially those that represent the diversity of our community’s culture
  • Celebrate the region’s history and preserve historical integrity

2. Education (encompasses both Complementary Education and Career Pathways)

CFNIL funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Align with CFNIL’s Education Works guidelines
  • Provide creative and systemic approaches to educational improvement
  • Support the education of current and future medical professionals

3. Health

CFNIL funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Improve the quality of and access to health services
  • Support community wellness
  • Conduct research to promote the health and well-being of our community

4. Human Services

CFNIL funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Serve the basic needs of individuals and families
  • Provide services to persons with disabilities, especially activities that promote inclusion
  • Promote the equitable treatment of others

5. Sustainable Communities

CFNIL funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Promote neighborhood and economic development
  • Support efforts to ensure safety and access to quality, affordable, and permanent housing
  • Preserve our natural environment, especially activities that increase the region’s understanding and appreciation of the environment

6. Youth & Families

CFNIL funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Provide pathways to self-sufficiency
  • Strengthen families
  • Support intellectual, emotional, physical, and social development

PLEASE NOTE: These details will be updated to reflect the 2023 application as the details are available.

Application questions will vary depending on the type of proposal submitted:

  • Event – Choose “event” if the duration of the charitable activity described in the proposal is less than a week. Example: a weekend-long concert or a one-day neighborhood block party.
  • Project – Choose “project” if the duration of the charitable activity described in the proposal has a beginning and ending date, and lasts between one week and three years. Example: a summer-long camp or a two-year archiving initiative.
  • Program – Choose “program” if the duration of the charitable activity described in the proposal is ongoing. Example: a year-round health facility. All proposals related to educational activities that occur annually, like after-school or summer-school programs, should be included here.
  • Capital/Commodity – Choose “capital/commodity” if you are purchasing equipment, a commodity, or making a minor capital improvement that will allow you to serve or further your ability to serve your clients. If a capital/commodity purchase is part of a larger charitable activity, such as purchasing books for a reading program, choose Event/Project/Program as appropriate. Examples: Van purchase to transport clients; food purchase for pantry; school backpacks for at-risk youth, bathroom remodel to make ADA compliant. Please note: Capital/Commodity requests are not eligible for multi-year grants.

An organization can only apply for a multi-year grant if seeking funding for charitable activities that align within the Focus Areas of Education or Health.

PLEASE NOTE: These details will be updated to reflect the 2023 application as the details are available.

While evaluating grants, CFNIL reviewers want to know who is applying, how they will put a plan into action, and what that plan will accomplish. In the Measuring Results section of the application, CFNIL reviewers need the clearest possible description of anticipated results and indicators of success in order to meaningfully evaluate your application. To see examples of Measuring Results, visit the Grants Resources page. The following is a breakdown of key elements of the Measuring Results section of the Community Grants application:

  • Result: The change or improvement that a charitable activity is intended to produce.
  • Indicators of Success: The data collected to show evidence of a change as a result of the proposed activity. This may include outputs and outcomes. Outputs may be used in an instance when measuring outcomes during the funding period (12 months) would be impractical.
  • TargetsThis does not refer to your target population. Express the target as a number or percentage. It is the quantity of the data that you are tracking in the Indicators of Success listed above that you want to surpass to consider the Result met.
  • Methods for Measurement: How you will collect the data that shows evidence of change.
  • Benchmarks: A point of reference against which your results will be compared.

PLEASE NOTE: These details will be updated to reflect the 2023 application as the details are available.

To be eligible to apply for funding from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, an applicant must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization OR a religious organization, unit of government, or public university/college.

The proposals must describe charitable activities that primarily, but not exclusively, benefit the residents of Boone, Ogle, Stephenson, or Winnebago Counties. The more you request, the greater scrutiny your proposal will receive. Proposals requesting more than $75,000 will be evaluated for their alignment with Education Works. Proposals requesting $30,000 or less will benefit from a streamlined application.

CFNIL does not fund charitable activities that promote a religion or require participation in a religious activity as a condition for receiving services.  However, grants may be made to faith-based organizations for non-religious purposes.

CFNIL will fund:

  • Expenses that are directly related to the design and implementation of a proposal. Income and expenses related to the proposal must be itemized using CFNIL’s Budget Template. (see the Grants Resources page and look for the "Budget Template" section to download and find more instructions)
  • The purchase and installation of capital assets (i.e., assets that have a useful life greater than one year and which will be depreciated on the applicant’s books).
  • Wages for staff or contractors to the extent that the request is appropriate to the proposal’s scope and implementation.
  • Indirect costs that do not exceed 15% of the amount being requested in the proposal. Indirect costs are defined as expenses that cannot be easily attributed to the funded charitable activity but are essential to the operation of the grantee. Examples include utilities, insurance, general administrative support, and the portion of a building that is used to support the general operations of the organization.

The CFNIL Community Grants program will not fund proposals requesting funding for general operations; endowment building; large-scale capital campaigns; budget deficits; individuals; for-profit organizations; partisan political activities; or proposals that discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national/ethnic origin, political beliefs, veteran’s status, disability, or any other factor prohibited by applicable law.

PLEASE NOTE: These details will be updated to reflect the 2023 application as the details are available.


  • Must have been in active service to the public for at least one year as of December 1st of the year in which they are applying. For 501(c)(3) organizations, active service begins on the “Effective Date” found in an organization’s IRS Determination Letter.
  • Must be current on all interim and final reports for grants from CFNIL’s Community Grants Program. If the organization is currently being funded with a CFNIL grant and a final report is not yet due, the organization must submit an interim report. Learn more about reporting on the Grants Resources page.
  • Must submit a “Pre-Authorization Form” if working with or within a school district. This document asks for detailed information about the partnership between the applicant and the district, specifically the district’s role in designing the charitable activity and allocating resources toward its completion.
  • May submit up to three unique proposals. For the purposes of this limit, organizations and their corresponding foundations will be treated as one entity even if they have separate EIN numbers. 

CFNIL is committed to a fair and objective proposal review process.

Volunteer advisors from the community review and recommend grant proposals for approval by the CFNIL Board of Trustees. CFNIL Trustees, volunteer advisors, and staff adhere to carefully considered conflict of interest and confidentiality policies throughout the review and approval process. Due to the volume of proposals considered, CFNIL cannot routinely meet with grant applicants as a part of the review process. CFNIL may meet with any applicant when a review committee has determined that a meeting or a site visit will facilitate the review process.

Grant award decisions are final. CFNIL Trustees, volunteer advisors, and staff are prohibited from discussing the details of committee deliberations with any grant applicant. 

View the Proposal Review Guidelines

Occasionally, CFNIL’s application will request that you upload an external document, i.e. a quote for a budget item or a relevant report. Please upload these documents as PDFs. 

View PDF Tips

Questions? Issues with your application? Contact Lisa!

Lisa DeLang, CFNIL Program and Administrative Associate
Lisa DeLang
Program and Administrative Associate
Phone: 779-210-8210
Email: Lisa DeLang