2017 Grants to Support Land Conservation, Artistic Vitality and Collections in Chicago and the Lowcountry

The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (GDDF) Awards nearly $7 Million in Grants To Support Land Conservation, Artistic Vitality and Museum and Library Collections In The Chicago (IL) and Lowcountry (SC) Regions

December 20, 2017 (CHICAGO) – The Board of Directors of the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation awarded $6.9 million in grants to more than 200 organizations in 2017 to support land conservation, artistic vitality and regional collections. The grants were approved at the board’s July and November meetings, held annually. The Foundation is celebrating its 65th year as a regional funder, convener, and thought leader in philanthropy in the Chicago Region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. In recognition of this milestone, the organization is sharing a short anniversary video featuring GDDF board chair, Laura Donnelley, which celebrates the Foundation’s legacy in the two regions. In the video Ms. Donnelley adds a note of caution, apropos to the current climate in Washington, “ In both conservation and artistic vitality, once these areas are threatened, it’s harder to bring them back.”

Federal Policy Grants for Land Conservation

The 2017 awards include 2-year grants totaling $1 million to six organizations championing land conservation programs and funding at the federal level:  The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, The Land Trust Alliance, The Southern Environmental Law Center, Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the Environmental Law & Policy Center. The organizations are at the forefront of defending policies that help drive land conservation outcomes in the Foundation’s two regions including tax incentives, acquisition and stewardship support, wetlands protection, project permitting, and climate resilience.

“As a funder of conservation, and arts and culture, we are witnessing an unprecedented attack on the values and proven approaches that underlie our support for these mission areas,” says Executive Director David Farren. “In these challenging times, it is even more important for the philanthropic community, including place-based foundations, to speak out and support advocacy efforts at every level.”

Land Conservation

The Foundation also awarded $2.9 million in general operations and project grants to organizations involved with land protection, restoration, and land conservation policy advocacy regionally including:

  • A one-year $100,000 project grant to The Conservation Fund to explore expanded landscape-scale conservation opportunities—inclusive of public and private working lands—within the historic boundaries of the Grand Kankakee Marsh in Northwest Indiana.
  • A $20,000 second-time project grant to support the establishment of the South Carolina Land Trust Network as an operating non-profit organization. The statewide association, currently an all-volunteer collaboration of 28 land trusts and conservancies, promotes the benefits of land conservation and the programs that support it across the state of South Carolina.

Artistic Vitality

General operations and organizational capacity grants totaling $2.4 million were awarded to 131 arts organizations in both regions including:

  • Five Cash Reserve Challenge grants, to three Chicago organizations – Chicago Tap Theatre, Jazz Institute of Chicago, and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company – and two Charleston groups – Charleston Stage and Charleston Symphony Orchestra. Cash Reserve Challenge grants – ranging in size from $15,000 to $25,000 each – will help these organizations build their cash reserves to be able to take more creative risks and achieve greater operational sustainability.
  • General operations grants, totaling $41,000, to Arts Alliance Illinois and the South Carolina Arts Alliance. Both organizations, under new leadership, have become the principal voices in coordinating state and local effort to understand the impact and value of the arts in communities and keep the field apprised of federal funding challenges to the arts including NEA/NEH concerns.
  • General operating grants, totaling $176,000, to 12 new or returning organizations in the Lowcountry including: Lean Ensemble (Hilton Head), Long Bay Symphony (Myrtle Beach), The Flowertown Players (Summerville) and The Pat Conroy Literary Center (Beaufort). The expanded grantmaking across the nine-county region is a result of a new artistic vitality strategy approved by the board in November 2016.


Ten project grants and four general operating grants totaling more than $650,000 were awarded to collections organizations in both regions under the Foundation’s strategy focusing on at-risk collections, creative curatorial projects, and broadening support for digitization efforts. Highlights of those projects include:

  • A two-year, $200,000 grant to the College of Charleston’s Special Collections Department to fund the collection and processing documents, photos and other historic ephemera of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer community (LGBTQ) of the Lowcountry. The project would address the lack of holdings in Lowcountry institutions that provide any history of the contributions of the LGBTQ community to the region and the state, and provide researchers and scholars materials important to understanding the gay culture of the region.
  • Planning grants in the Chicago region to the National Public Housing Museum, Sixty Inches from Center and the Chicago Cultural Alliance, to increase awareness of regionally-focused collections by bringing artists and archival professionals into dialogue with one another about creative curation.

A complete list of grant awards may be found at https://www.gddf.org/about/grants.


The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality and regional collections for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. For more information, visit gddf.org.

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