What Does the Joyce Foundation's New Strategy Mean for Nonprofits?

Anniversary years are often a big deal for funders. They’re a reason to celebrate, to reevaluate, and to give out money in new ways. With 2018 just around the corner, one foundation starting to prepare for an anniversary is the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation. Joyce will be celebrating 70 years of giving in 2018, prompting some revisions in its grantmaking focus for the Great Lakes region.

It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Joyce is shifting its strategy to focus more explicitly on equity. This has been a major trend among funders lately and Joyce has long been an equity-minded grantmaker. The foundation's new move doesn't represent a dramatic break from its past priorities and many nonprofits that look to this grantmaker for support can breath easy. 

The Joyce Foundation is committing $150 million over the next three years to helping residents of the Great Lakes region thrive in their communities, education, and careers—with a major focus on racial equity and economic mobility. Like other funders, Joyce gets that entrenched patterns of segregation and exclusion stand as a stumbling block to prosperity in an America with rapid demographic change. 

The population of the Midwest and Great Lakes region isn’t growing nearly as quickly as other parts of the country. But the growth that is occurring is among non-white groups. These will be the people the region relies upon to drive economic growth—and they’ll need the opportunities and tools to make that happen.

Beth Swanson, VP of strategy and programs at Joyce said:

The region’s success is tied to the aspirations of young people of color, so we must address a history of persistent racial disparities in wealth, income, and education. The new strategy will focus on expanding opportunity for lower-income and minority children and removing barriers that can prevent them from reaching their full potential.

New equity grantmaking efforts are expected to be spread across the six-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Joyce will be sticking with its long-standing focus within its funding on research, policy, and advocacy. 

Under Joyce’s revamped strategy, there will be five core programs. Between 2018 and 2020, Joyce plans to spend $43 million for its education and economic mobility program, $25.5 million for its environment program, $21.6 million for its gun violence prevention and justice reform program, $14 million for its democracy program, and $6.2 million for its culture program. Education and economic groups will clearly come out the big winners here, especially ones that target low-income students of colors who attend K-12 schools.

These grantmaking projections may seem a bit rigid, but Joyce has also built some flexibility into its new plan. There’s a separate special opportunities program here that the funder says will grant out $6.2 million to over the next three years. This is a way for Joyce to work outside its core areas and be open to new things that come along. 

Joyce’s amplified focus on equity tracks with its past funding. The funder closed out its 2015-2017 strategy with $13 million in total grants, and many of these hinted at a narrowing focus on youth, race, and economic mobility. Recent education and economic mobility grantees include Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University and Education Commission of the States. Communities in focus lately are Columbus, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin, Rockford, Illinois, and the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. A full list of December 2017 grants from Joyce can be viewed here.