2022 Illinois Humanities Grants Offerings

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By Mark Hallett, Director of Grants Programs

Read Time 6 minutes
May 12, 2022

At Illinois Humanities, we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to partner with a growing number of community-based cultural groups and others across the state. One of the ways we do this is through our ever-changing grants offerings. I’m writing this blog post to share a few of the upcoming opportunities to partner with Illinois Humanities in the summer and fall of 2022. Our hope, as always, is to continue to grow the number of organizations that we are able to partner with on making public humanities offerings available to people across the state of Illinois. We are truly lucky to work with so many!


State of Illinois Emergency Relief Grants

Gen Ops Funding

  • Amount: $5,000 grants (unrestricted)
  • Who’s Eligible: Illinois nonprofit (tax exempt, not necessarily 501c3) humanities organization with an annual budget of $500,000 or less
  • Deadline: Thursday, September 15, 2022, by 5 p.m. CST
  • Application and more information on the Community Grants page!

Foreground Rural Initiative

  • Amount: $5,000 grants (individuals), $10,000 grants (organizations)
  • Who’s Eligible: Illinois nonprofit (tax exempt, not necessarily 501c3) organizations harnessing the arts, culture, and humanities for community building in rural Illinois communities
  • Deadline: Monday, August 15th, 2022 by 5 p.m. CST
  • Application and more information here.

From Illinois with Love: Huge thanks to the State of Illinois General Assembly for recognizing the important role that cultural organizations play at the community level across the state. Thanks to them, as part of State American Relief Plan (ARP) emergency relief funding, there is a pool of grant money available (around $250,000) for smaller cultural organizations. If you are an Illinois nonprofit (tax exempt, not necessarily 501c3) humanities organization with a budget of $1 million or less, then you are eligible to apply for one of these $5,000 unrestricted grants. The deadline for submitting an application is Friday, July 8th, 2022, at 5 p.m. CST (no exceptions). Our goal, as a growing practice and commitment, is to disperse half of the funds to Cook County organizations and half to organizations located outside Cook County. Note that if your organization received a 2021 ARP grant, you do not need to fill out the final report form before applying in this round. Click here to access the grants portal for both in-Cook and outside-of-Cook applications.

GOS: Hold on – there’s another opportunity for unrestricted (General Operating Support) funding! Starting with the September 15, 2022 grants cycle, we are going to include Gen Ops funding in our Community Grants initiative – which has until now only provided project support. If you are an Illinois humanities nonprofit (again, tax exempt, and not necessarily a 501c3), with a budget of $500,000 or less (lower than the above category), then you are eligible to apply for one of these $5,000 unrestricted grants. Again, we have separate portals for applicants from Cook County and those who are located outside of Cook County. Note that if you are seeking a project grant for humanities work, the January 15, 2023 Community Grants cycle will be the next opportunity. Deadline? Thursday, September 15, 2022, by 5 p.m. CST (no exceptions).

Extra, Extra: Wait, one more General Operating grants opportunity. Really?! Illinois Humanities is launching the Foreground Rural Initiative with support from an anonymous donor focused on helping to foster engagement around the arts and humanities at the community level in rural communities throughout the state. Through this new initiative we hope to partner with a number of rural communities across the state. There will be a deadline of August 1st, 2022 by 5 p.m. CST (no exceptions) and we hope to announce awards by September 15th. In addition to 10 or so Gen Ops grants, we hope to end up working more closely with two of the grantee partners (again, to be named in September) on capacity building and collaborative programming in the next few years. Stay tuned to not miss it!


What is Gen Ops, anyway? General Operating grants, or unrestricted grants, are meant to support organizations to do what they do, without strings attached. Whereas a project grant is generally tied to specific goals, budget, timeline, and activities, ‘Gen Ops’ funding is in a sense open, to be used at the discretion of the awardee. There are some restrictions in IH Gen Ops funding – no international travel, alcohol, political advocacy, for example, and you can’t use the entire budget for construction or equipment. But that leaves room for a lot – the bulk of the grant money, to be used in advancing your mission!

What are your priorities for funding? With regards to the above grants categories, we are looking to make sure that historically underserved, under-funded communities, BIPOC-led organizations, rural organizations, and those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are in the mix.

Can my organization apply for more than one grant? Not a big issue, it turns out. In other words, if you apply for a State of Illinois grant, you are still eligible for a Community Grant or Rural Initiative grant. The only limitation on ‘double-dipping’ is that we only allow a partner to have one ‘open’ Community Grant at a time. (Grants are ‘closed’ by filling out the final report form in Foundant.)

What does the process look like for applying for these grants? In general, for the three categories mentioned above, there is just one step in applying) This is important, in that we strive to streamline processes to help make them less burdensome on applicants. Also, FYI, the general operating grant applications are virtually the same (though the Rural Initiative application is unique).

Is the Community Grants program going to only support Gen Ops from now on? No, our plan is to reserve each September deadline for Gen Ops, and the January and May deadlines will remain open to projects.

What are the humanities, anyway? Our working definition of a humanities organization (below) is adapted from the Humanities Indicators project led by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Information on the Humanities Indicators project can be found here: amacad.org/humanities-indicators. If you feel your organization should qualify, but doesn’t fit into these eight categories, reach out to me at mark.hallett@ilhumanities.org and make the case. (Note that with regards to the above three grants opportunities, this definition applies to the State of Illinois grants, and to the Illinois Humanities Gen Ops grants, but that the Rural Initiative is open to a wider range of organizations.) The categories are:

  • Cultural and Ethnic Organization
  • History Organizations
  • Humanities Education
  • Humanities Museums
  • Libraries and Archives
  • Literature Organizations
  • Media, Journalism, and Documentary Organizations
  • Consortiums, alliances, collectives of above-named groups

We love community historians: And, on a completely different front, remember that our next Activate History deadline is September 1st at 5:00 p.m. (CST). Activate History microgrants are grants available to organizations and individuals to host engagement activities around collections and archives.

As always, reach out with questions.

We are honestly so fortunate to be able to work with so many of you doing fantastic work across the state!

Mark & the Illinois Humanities team