Under the Radar, Yet Accessible: How the Franke Family Charitable Foundation Gives in Chicago

The Frankes are long-time supporters of the art institute of Chicago, as well as other cultural institutions in the city. Photo: Matias Honkamaa/shutterstock

The Frankes are long-time supporters of the art institute of Chicago, as well as other cultural institutions in the city. Photo: Matias Honkamaa/shutterstock

Successful investment bankers often turn their attention to philanthropy upon retirement. A good example of this is Richard Franke, former chairman and CEO of the John Nuveen Company in Chicago. He was loyal to the company for 41 years and also helped to found the Chicago Humanities Festival, a local event that brings together artists from all over the world. Richard Franke and his wife, Barbara, also established a family foundation in the 1990s, which we’re taking a look at now in more detail.

Franke Is Deeply Interested in the Humanities

Going beyond just the Chicago Humanities Festival, the humanities have always been of great importance to this Chicago philanthropist. Richard Franke is known as a champion of liberal arts education and the humanistic tradition, and he received the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton for “bringing the pleasure of art and ideas to the people of the great city of Chicago.” Several years later, he received Phi Beta Kappa Society’s National Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities.

Chicago Arts Groups Are Also in Focus

In addition to Franke’s humanities work, he and his wife also regularly support a variety of arts groups in Chicago. Barbara Franke, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, has always had strong interests in the arts, and this is definitely reflected in the couple’s grantmaking. In fact, Barbara Franke is a sustaining fellow and trustee at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is also a member of the Court Theatre Board of Trustees and the Visiting Committee of the Wineberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University.

Franke arts grantees tend to be large and well-established institutions, such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Court Theater at University of Chicago. Aside from the arts, the couple supports education, but mostly related to the couple’s alma maters. Grantseekers can review details about additional grantees in the foundation’s recent tax records.

Written Narratives Are Welcome  

Unfortunately for grantseekers foundation, this foundation does not have a website to share information about its giving preferences and application guidelines. However, it is open to receiving unsolicited funding requests and learning about promising local opportunities.

Chicago-area arts and humanities groups can get in touch with the foundation by phone or mail to submit a written narrative and proof of 501(c)(3) qualification. The foundation’s board is made up entirely of Franke family members, so this local philanthropy is still very much a family affair.      

Learn more about this funder, how it gives in locally Chicago, and how to get in touch by reading IP’s full profile of the Franke Family Charitable Foundation, as well as our profile of the Franke couple in our Wall Street Donors profile.