Illinois is a major economic force in the United States. Originally known as the “Prairie State” it was officially dubbed the “Land of Lincoln” in 1995. Today it ranks among the top ten states in the U.S. with regard to high-tech and start-up businesses.
Like some of the other states we cover (see grants in Texas, grants in California, grants in New York and grants in Florida), Illinois’ grant offerings can be confusing to identify and locate. They are not covered in any one central database or website that we could find. But they definitely exist and there are some interesting opportunities even for individuals.
This article directs you to grants depending on your main areas of interest and need. A lot of areas are included! Illinois is becoming more and more known for its technology companies and that creates many business opportunities. But farming-related resources still exist as well along with a host of others.
Individual states are a rich hunting ground for grants of all kinds. The federal government is the largest provider of funds by far, but most of them go to the states. States then assess more specific local goals and award grants to government agencies, schools and students, non-profit organizations, small businesses, farms, and even individuals. See if one (or more!) of these is for you:
Discover your program today!
Update May 2017: The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity is highlighting small business on its web site and in its operations. They have put together an organized wealth of information about what you need to know to start and run a successful business in Illinois. Their First Stop Business Information Center gets right to the point and lets you go directly to advice in seven different categories including Loans and Financing and where you can find Incubators, Workspaces and Tech Parks. You can also find out what locations might work best for you, how to get help dealing with regulations, getting help from Small Business Centers and more.
News January 2017: Attention Schools and Teachers! The Illinois Schoolyard Habitat Action Grant has been announced by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. The goal is to develop or improve habitats for wildlife located on the grounds of schools or in other public places. Eligible applicants include teachers, leaders of youth groups and staffs at existing nature centers. Those seeking grants may apply for up to $1000. The deadline for applications is November 30, 2017 so you have plenty of time to put a great application together. The Department website includes a link to an application review form which will clarify what judges are looking for and how important each section is. There’s also a podcast you can listen to for advice about applying.
Finding Grants in Illinois
This review is organized by category: Housing and Human Services (including foreclosure prevention); Education; Business and Farming; and Community Grants for programs in the Humanities:
Illinois Housing And Human Services Illinois offers extensive services to its residents, particularly those in need: Grants for homebuyers are available for first time homebuyers from the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Check the IHDA website to find a participating lender and get help through this generous program.
Assistance is also provided to hopeful homebuyers with low or very low incomes who want to buy and rehabilitate vacant houses. The awards are made possible through the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Qualifying buyers can get assistance with the purchase of a vacant property and may also qualify for up to $20,000 for necessary repairs and desired improvements. Buyers must live in the home as their primary residence and contribute at least $1000 or 1% (whichever is greater) to the cost of the home. Contact your nearest Homebuyer Rehabilitation Assistance participating agency to get more information and apply.
Grants for homeowners are available for those with lower incomes who have homes in need of repair or rehabilitation. This is a great service as so many homes are in serious need of repair! The elderly and people with disabilities who must make changes to improve their mobility also qualify. Check these grants out and find an agency that participates in the Home Modification Program on the IHDA website.
If you are a homeowner in danger of foreclosure you should definitely check out the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network. This program is also available through the IHDA. It provides counseling and financial support and has a high success rate helping people keep their homes.
Assistance for renters is also provided by the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Those living in — or moving into — a property that is part of the Rental Housing Support (RHS) program may qualify based on their income level. They must also be able to contribute about 30% of their income to their rent payment. This assistance is offered through Local Administering Agencies (LAA’s), which are located throughout the state.
Other human services are offered by the Illinois Department of Human Services. A professional counselor interviews an individual or family and determines what services are available and needed. These services may include cash for temporary assistance of for the “aged, blind and disabled;” SNAP food assistance; subsidized child care; refugee and immigrant support; rehabilitation services; and health issues including mental health as well as community health and prevention and assistance for those with developmental disabilities.
Illinois sponsors extensive programs to deal with alcohol and substance abuse, to welcome new Americans to the state and get connected with services, and to provide crisis intervention and referrals.
Visit the IDHS website, do an internet search, or better yet go in person to a local agency to learn more about how to get in on these programs. A personal interview is an important first step to be sure you get the right information about finding the help you need.
Illinois Grants For Education
Update September 2017
Good News for students in Illinois! The state budget is now a reality and programs like the Monetary Award Program for college are back. This funding which helps thousands of Illinois’ most needy students was cut off during the budget crisis. Students at the University of Illinois Springfield continued to receive funds which were put up by the school, but those funds were not going to last forever so all are very relieved. The state has started releasing the more than half a billion dollars in payments for its state universities and community colleges.$327million of that is MAP funding.
October 2016 Update As of this date (October 2016) budget issues in Illinois are having an impact on the payment of MAP (Monetary Award Program) Grants to college students. While they have partially restored MAP funding with some stop gap bills, the future is still uncertain for many students. Some have opted simply not to return to school this fall, others are waiting. The budget stalemate is not expected to end until after November elections, so unfortunately plans will remain up in the air for a while.
June 2016 Update Six groups at the University of Illinois were awarded seed grants from the Illinois Learning Sciences Design Initiative. The program providing the awards aims to promote collaboration among the faculty members in multiple disciplines on campus. The awards ranged from $12,000 to $37,000 for subject areas from educational psychology to STEM engagement. To learn more and to get a list of team mbembers’ names (research jobs available perhaps?) check out news.illinois.edu.
For the current fiscal year there are grants not only for students trying to pay for school, but also for teachers. Specifically in the science area, grants are available for teachers who have excelled in their science instruction. Also taken into account is the impact the teacher's work has had on not only students but on the school and the local community. Awards are offered by the National Science Teachers Association with an application deadline of November 2016. Even if you're not going to make it for this year's competition, you should check them out at nsta.org and be ready for next year!
When you look for grants in Illinois you most frequently find information about getting help with the cost of school. Illinois makes a lot of financial assistance available and in this case the procedure is unusually simple. To win a grant — that is, the type of financial aid that is a “gift” that never needs to be paid back — you must first simply fill out the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid). Once you do that and your financial situation and need are officially determined, you automatically have access to the Pell Grant (which is a federal award), the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Illinois’ Monetary Award Program (MAP). Similar to the Pell Grant, the Illinois MAP is a financial award that does not need to be repaid. It is also not based on grades or test scores, but solely on financial need (for eligible applicants).
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission provides additional support and financial awards through scholarships and grants. Some of these are targeted to Illinois veterans, those in the National Guard, dependents of police or fire fighters, and many more. If you are a student in Illinois who needs help to get to college you should definitely go to the isac.org website to learn more.
Illinois Farming and Business Grants The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is the go-to place for business grants and a lot more! For starters they have a Grant Tracker that lets you search all available grants. You can also view a map of the state which shows where grants are being awarded. (To find the map go to the Grant Locator section on the Grant Tracker page). In addition you can see these grants by category such as Energy, Government, Community, Tourism and Job Training.
Small businesses and those wishing to start a business should first click the Small Business Assistance Tools tab, then go to the “Begin Here” area on the right. There you can get a step-by-step guide for starting a business in Illinois specifically. It’s not just boilerplate that could be found in any business guide. They offer seminars, opportunities for networking and other resources. There is also special help for bidding on government contracts. Of course you should also check out our many resources for small business, starting with Grants For Business and Fund A Startup Business.
Another bonus in Illinois is that there are Small Business Development Centers located throughout the state. These centers are typically joint collaborations of the federal Small Business Administration, the DCEO, and a local college or university. They provide services to companies with fewer than 500 employees.
Illinois Technology Grants The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity includes an “Office of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology.” Their mission is to help businesses, entrepreneurs and residents in Illinois to succeed in a very dynamic (i.e., constantly changing!) economy. They do this in a number of ways including helping to commercialize new technologies. Learn more on the Illinois state website's dceo page.
Farm-related grants are not plentiful but some are available. Farming is, of course, a business and managers would do well to check out Illinois business assistance as well as review our Grants For Farms article.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture is no longer accepting applications for the AgriFirst program. But there is a Conservation 2000 Sustainable Agriculture Grant Program available. They are accepting applications for the fiscal year 2014-2015. Specific projects they will support include On-Farm Research & Development; Outreach & Education; and University Research. State government agencies, non-profits, schools, and even individuals may apply for these grants. The maximum awards are $10,000 per project per year for individuals and $20,000 per project per year for organizations.
There is also an “Illinois EBT Wireless Project Farmers Market Technology Improvement Program.” This program helps farmers market managers to accept Link/SNAP (food stamps) by helping them implement wireless access. Funds are provided for the necessary machines and wireless access fees using resources provided by the USDA, Illinois state agencies and some private organizations. This program helps the markets, the farmers, and lower income families!
Illinois Community Grants
These grants are provided by the Illinois Humanities Council to non-profit organizations in Illinois. They seek to support projects which further the specific goals of educating people about Illinois and enhancing community life through the humanities. They particularly encourage programs which help to bring the humanities and stories of Illinois to new groups or to those who have historically been underserved.
The Community Grants website (accessible via prairie.org) provides examples of projects which have been funded in the past. They are worth reviewing so that your organization can better understand what sort of effort might be funded.
Grant applications are available on the website. The maximum awards depend on the category of the proposal but range anywhere from $2000 to $5000. The applications are accepted four times a year, the 15th of the months of January, April, July and October.