Wieboldt Foundation

Wieboldt Foundation


* Assets: $19,857,645 (2017)
* Grants Received: $0 (2017)
* Grants Awarded: $669,400 (2017)

The Wieboldt Foundation (WF) was established in 1921 (with a bequest of $4 million) by William A. Wieboldt, who created the Wieboldt’s department store chain, and his wife, Anna. Their hope was that this Foundation’s grants would provide much-needed support for “charities designed to put an end to the need for charity.” WF’s executive director (since 1994) has been Regina McGraw, the former Vice President for Communications at Voices For Illinois Children, and the President of WF is Maureen Loughnane, a former Director of Development with the ACLU of Illinois.[1]

Over the course of its long history, the Wieboldt Foundation’s mission has veered significantly to the political left, with an increased emphasis on supporting groups whose mission is to bring about social change via the redistribution of wealth and power, and to aid the victims of America’s alleged societal inequities—particularly “the challenges of race and class” that allegedly limit economic, professional, and political opportunities for low-income minorities. Today WF’s “prime concern” is to support “community organizing” and “community action” as means of combating the “sense of powerlessness,” “apathy,” and “alienation” that “are at the root of many of the ills of our time.”

The Wieboldt Foundation limits its grant-making to organizations that conduct all or part of their work in the Chicago metropolitan area. Most notably, it supports “multi-issue community organizing groups that work in low-income neighborhoods, that are accountable to neighborhood residents, and through which people are empowered to have a major voice in shaping decisions that affect their lives.” The stipulation that grant recipients must be multi-issue-oriented is based on the teachings of the late radical organizer Saul Alinsky, who wrote: “An organization must be based on many issues.… A single issue drastically limits your appeal, where multiple issues would draw in the many potential members essential to the building of a broad, mass-based organization.” In 2009, WF gave $5,000 to the Woods Fund of Chicago to support a Saul Alinsky Centennial Symposium.

Further detailing its grant-making criteria, the Wieboldt Foundation explains that it only supports groups that: “organize by enlisting and nurturing participation of a large number of neighborhood residents, organizations and institutions”; “recruit and formally develop local leadership”; and “enable local citizens to develop an agenda, to devise strategies, and to carry out action.” Notably, these are some of the very guidelines that Alinsky himself enumerated in his books Rules for Radicals and Reveille for Radicals, wherein he laid out the principles of radical activism and “a science of revolution.”

The Wieboldt Foundation gives financial support to such organizations as the Agape Foundation, Chicago ACORN, the Center for Community Change, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Council On Foundations, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Midwest Academy, the National Network of Grantmakers, the Neighborhood Funders Group, the Roger Baldwin Foundation of American Civil Liberties Union, State Voices, the Tides Center, and the Woods Fund of Chicago.

To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Wieboldt Foundation, click here.

To complement its grantmaking initiatives, WF also makes program-related investments (in amounts of up to $40,000 apiece) in the form of loans, loan guarantees, and equity investments designed to help community organizations that are based in, or that work in, low-income neighborhoods in the Chicago metropolitan area. To qualify for WF investments, a group must engage in one or more of the following activities:

  • “Rehabilitate/produce housing for low-income citizens.”
  • “Promote community economic development that is accountable to local residents.”
  • “Create/support neighborhood-based business ventures.”
  • “Increase local ownership of financial resources and access to other investors.”
  • “Provide employment opportunities for local residents.”

Further Reading:Wieboldt Foundation” (Wieboldt.org); “Grant Guidelines” (Wieboldt.org); “Program Related Investments” (Wieboldt.org).

(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)


  1. Wieboldt Left a Legacy That Returns Favor” (Chicago Tribune, 5-19-1996); “Board and Staff” (Wieboldt.org); “Changing Role” (Chicago Tribune, 6-19-1994); “About Us” (Voices4Kids.org); “Maureen Loughnane” (LinkedIn.com).

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