$200,000 in grants awarded to 32 museums, libraries, and other collecting organizations in Chicago and South Carolina to provide immediate relief

For Immediate Release
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Full list of grantees


This follows $2 million of expedited general operating funds to its current roster of 175 arts grantees in the Chicago region and 40 in the Lowcountry of South Carolina

CHICAGO [June 9, 2020]—Acknowledging the cataclysmic financial situation that small, regionally-focused museums, libraries and other collecting organizations are facing, the Chicago-based Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (the Foundation) has awarded $200,000 in general operating funds to 19 collecting organizations in the Chicago region and 13 in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The nearly 70-year old Foundation supports these organizations as they are simultaneously repositories of human, cultural, scientific and natural world materials, and hubs that draw people together to learn, to connect and to imagine. This Emergency Relief Fund focused on small collecting organizations with budgets under $1 million.

Collections organizations were awarded emergency relief grants between $5,000 and $10,000. Those that received awards in the Chicago region or Lowcountry of South Carolina include:


  • Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, focused on the art, history, culture and current events of Native American and First Nation peoples from throughout the United States and Canada: “We are thrilled that the Donnelley Foundation has come to the rescue of so many collections-based organizations during this crisis, recognizing the importance of museums and historical organizations to employ workers, artists and performers who feed the soul of a community and heal cultural and racial divides. This grant has given us breathing space to cover ongoing collections care costs, shift technologies, create a new website, and reimagine how we serve our mission and the public while closed.” (Kathleen McDonald, Executive Director)


  • Chinese American Museum of Chicago, dedicated to telling the stories of Chinese Americans primarily in the Midwest: “With the much-needed funds, we are able to continue to operate and compensate the staff and contractors who created new digital contents for virtual tours. For the first time, we have installed a virtual tour of our new exhibit, Attic Treasures ll, and showcased many artifacts from our collections to engage the public who are sheltered-in-place to learn about Chinese American history and culture.” (Ben Lau, Executive Director)


  • Cecil Williams Civil Rights Museum (CWM), the first and only civil rights museum of its kind in South Carolina: “Due to COVID-19 we experienced a 95% decrease in earned income since March 2020. This support will help CWM provide a virtual museum option to families who need culturally-relevant, engaging materials to supplement their education. These funds will also help us conduct sanitization and reorganization of the entire physical site in order to safely re-open our museum in the coming months.” (Cecil Williams, Founder)


  • Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage, a facility where a wide diversity of people can gather to explore and learn about the area’s distinctive sense of place: “The cultural center’s annual inhouse exhibition, Soul of the South, and a traveling exhibit, Melody Makers, will be on view to the public soon. The Donnelly Foundation grant has supported our organization by allowing employees to continue their work, as well as explore new ways to provide educational content to the community.” (Tamara Herring, Executive Director)


In addition to emergency grants to small museums, libraries and collecting organizations, the Foundation also recently expedited $2 million in general operating funds to its current roster of 175 arts grantees in the Chicago region and 40 in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. This includes a contribution of $200,000 to the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund providing unrestricted grants from $6,000 to $30,000 for groups to be administered by the Arts Work Fund; and the creation of an initial $100,000 Lowcountry Arts Emergency Fund to be administered by the Foundation. Looking ahead to grantees’ future financial needs, the Foundation has offered webinars in partnership with FMA (Financial Management Associates) on Managing Financial Health and a follow-up Scenario Planning session so that groups may begin to plan forward.


“Museums and libraries have had to shutter their doors, and it’s uncertain when they will be able to reopen,” said David Farren, executive director of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.  “Based on our ongoing relationship with organizations, it’s clear that the smallest of these organizations are especially hard hit, and there was no question that we would step up to get them the funds they need now, when they need it. We know how important they are to the neighborhoods and communities they serve.”


About Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation & How it Serves


The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  The Foundation serves these communities in the following ways:

  • Supplying multiyear general operating support for the majority of its grants. Anecdotally, multiyear general operating support is the “gold standard” most valued by grantees.  It supports organizational stability, provides flexibility, and helps build further trust in relationships between funders and grantees
  • Providing value in addition to dollars. The Foundation’s strength is in the overall “value proposition” of its grants — the dollars, plus technical assistance support, sponsoring convenings, providing informal coaching, and paying for scholarships for conferences and other organizational development opportunities.
  • Establishing a number of touchpoints with grantees throughout the grant cycle. Every Foundation grantee, no matter the grant size, has contact with its program officer at least once a year, usually more often. Beyond the money, they sponsor and attend cohort meetings, learning sessions, and informal gatherings with various grantee clusters.

For more information on the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, visit www.gddf.org.


Press Contact:

Amanda Berrios/Elizabeth Neukirch
The Silverman Group, Inc.
847-421-8517 (cell)



[Header photos, clockwise from top left – Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage, Chinese American Museum of Chicago, Cecil Williams Civil Rights Museum.]

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