Since 1953, the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois has made more than $63,000,000 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 2017 Community Grants cycle. This document describes who can apply for Community Grants, how they can apply, and what kind of charitable activities are eligible to receive funding. 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. More information on Education Works is available here.

We rely on your feedback to guide our grantmaking process. Please do not hesitate to approach 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.

Grant Guidelines
Application Questions
Grant Report

Application Overview

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. Measuring Results: Asks about your project, program, or event’s anticipated results and your plan to track and measure those results
  3. Community Need: Asks why your activity is needed and who it will serve in terms of location, age, ethnicity, and gender
  4. Proposal Plan: Asks for a detailed description of your activity, including any collaboration between your organization and other entities using the Collective Impact model
  5. Proposal Budget: Asks for a detailed proposal budget and narrative
  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 by October 2, CFNIL provides a Word version of the application at Many applicants find it easier to initially work on the application in Word then copy and paste responses into the Web Portal.

Eligibility & What We Fund

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. Proposals requesting more than $75,000 will be evaluated for their alignment with Education Works. The more you request, the greater scrutiny your proposal will receive.

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:
  • 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) to the extent that they support a proposal’s activity.
  • Wages for staff or contractors to the extent that the request is appropriate to the proposal’s scope and implementation.
  • Indirect costs to the extent that they are identifiable and allocable to a proposed project, program, or event.  Indirect costs may not exceed 15% of a total proposal budget. Examples of indirect expenses include: accounting, audit, business, and legal fees; computer network costs; depreciation; insurance; rent; telephone; and utilities.

CFNIL will not fund proposals requesting funding for general operations; 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.

Grant Requirements


  • Must be in active service to the public for at least one year prior to applying. 501(c)(3) organizations must have received the I.R.S. designation at least one year prior to applying.
  • Must be current on all interim and final reports for grants from CFNIL. 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. (
  • Must submit a “Pre-Authorization Form” found on 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.
  • Can submit multiple, unique proposals, but may not submit the same proposal to different Focus Areas.
  • Can receive funding for up to three consecutive years for the same activity. If an organization receives funding for three consecutive years for the same activity, it must wait two additional years before applying to seek additional grants from CFNIL.

Focus Areas

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.

1. Arts & Humanities

Funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Increase the availability 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

Funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Provide creative and systemic approaches to educational improvement
  • Support the education of current and future medical professionals
  • Fit under CFNIL’s Education Works grant strategy

3. Health

Funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Improve the quality of and access to health services
  • Support 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 those that promote inclusion

5. Sustainable Development

CFNIL funding priorities are for those proposals that:

  • Promote neighborhood and economic development
  • Support efforts to ensure safety and access to quality, affordable housing
  • Preserve our natural environment, especially those projects 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

Multi-Year Grants

An organization can only apply for a multi-year grant if seeking funding for projects, programs, or events that align with the following criteria:

  • Education Works,
  • Medical education, or
  • Medical research.

Types of Proposals

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. (E.g., 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. (E.g., 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. (E.g., 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.)

Measuring Results

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, please visit 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.
  • Targets: A number or percentage of the Indicators of Success that defines your desired achievement.
  • 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.

Working with PDFs

Occasionally, CFNIL’s application will request that you upload an external document–a quote for a budget item or a relevant report. Please upload these documents as PDFs. New to working with PDFs? We suggest that you read this document.

Online Application


The online application must be received on or before 5:00 p.m. on the deadline date.  Incomplete or late applications will not be accepted.


How to Register & Apply

Apply Now


Contact James Patterson

+1 (779) 210-8206

 Email James

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