The Open Call for Ideas to Advance Policy

Open Call release: June 2021
LOI deadline: Ongoing
Full application deadline: Ongoing (by invitation only)
Funding decision: Ongoing
Announcement: Ongoing

The Chicago Community Trust is inviting ideas that can advance public policies to address systemic inequities contributing to the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago region. The Open Call for Ideas to Advance Policy is intended to identify and fund efforts that contribute to systems changes that will eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in economic stability, mobility, and community and individual wealth-building.

About the Trust’s Focus on Advancing Policy

The Trust envisions a thriving, equitable, and connected region, achieved through a series of complementary areas of focus reflected in our strategic plan.  To close the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago region, we must also address systemic barriers and structural racism that have led to the wealth disparities we see today. Public policy and institutional reforms are key to achieving the outcomes we want to see and at the scale the challenges require.

Over the last year, the Trust has refined our approach to how we engage in public policy and advocacy. We are interested in both using the Trust’s voice in areas we believe will close the racial and ethnic wealth gap and supporting organizations conducting research, elevating community voice, developing policy innovations, organizing, coalition building, cultivating public sector leadership, and implementing sound policy reforms.

Learn more about The Trust’s Advocating for Policy Change approach.

The Trust’s Advocating for Policy Change strategy complements our grant making strategies by targeting systemic reforms to bring more equity to laws, policies, and government programs intended to close the racial and ethnic wealth gap. The Open Call for Ideas to Advance Policy is complementary to and not meant to duplicate Trust support to organizations engaging in policy and systems change work through the Addressing Critical Needs Systems and Policy Innovation RFP and Growing Household Wealth Coalitions for Equity in Wealth Policy RFP, or to community organizing activities through the Building Collective Power Changemakers Network.

Why an Open Call for Ideas to Advance Policy?

In addition to the Trust’s funding policy change efforts as an integrated part of our strategic grant making, we believe it is important to support organizations’ ability to innovate, inform, develop and elevate policy reforms, and transform systems that improve equity in wealth-building.

An ongoing, open call for ideas is a way to identify and invest resources in existing and emerging policy and advocacy initiatives that will strengthen, inform, and enable the policy changes to be realized and implemented. Recognizing that policy and advocacy are ever-changing and opportunities to effect change are sometimes driven by unforeseen outside factors, the Open Call for Ideas to Advance Policy is a nimble, effective and transparent vehicle for the Trust to consider time-sensitive opportunities and hear from new voices.

Criteria for Consideration of Ideas

Many activities enable the type of policy reforms and institutional shifts that will be required to achieve impact. As such, the Trust is looking to support activities that create the necessary conditions for meaningful policy change.

The Open Call for Ideas to Advance Policy will consider support for organizations, initiatives, and activities that do one or more of the following:

  • Build Knowledge and Public Will – Well-informed dialogues and efforts that build public will are critical to advancing policy and systems changes that achieve economic equity. Therefore, the Trust will consider support for organizations conducting policy research and analysis, advancing communications and narrative change efforts to elevate the profile of policy issues, and engaging the public to generate momentum towards policy solutions. Supported activities could include policy research and analysis, storytelling, publications, public events, digital content, etc., that inform and engage the public and key stakeholders on policy and systems change efforts.
  • Bolster the Policy Ecosystem – While there is collective pride in our communities and the desire to see our city and region thrive, public investment, policies, and commitment from public leaders have historically been unequal, particularly for Black and Latinx communities. However, the Trust understands there are committed leaders and advocates, researchers, and civic actors working tirelessly to bring attention to the needs of our communities. Therefore, we will consider investments in organizations that support the development of public sector and nonprofit leaders and in the strength of nonprofit organizations undertaking policy and systems change efforts.
  • Advance Policy and Systems Change – There is no better voice to propel a call to action than that of community members who have for far too long experienced the negative impact of inequitable policies. Resources are often required to ensure that community voices are at the table when policy is being made and that the organizations championing change have the resources to elevate those voices with elected and public officials who are in a position to make change. In some instances, and where it aligns with the Trust’s policy agenda, we will consider support for grassroots organizing and lobbying activity to advocate for policy solutions.

Open Call LOI Submissions

The Open Call for Ideas to Advance Policy is an ongoing idea solicitation program. Ideas submitted through the Open Call are not full proposals—they do not require organization financials, performance measures, and so on. Rather, they are brief and carefully constructed concepts submitted through a user-friendly letter of inquiry process.

Unlike LOIs submitted by organizations applying for grants through a time-limited RFP process, open call submissions will not require an organization profile to be completed. However, organizations that do not currently have an organization profile are encouraged to complete one as this will be required for submissions that are invited to complete full proposals, as well as for applying for other grant opportunities offered by the Trust.

Open Call submissions may request grants for either project or general operating support. However, if your organization already receives general operating support from the Trust, we will only consider project-based support through this opportunity.

Letters of inquiry must describe how your organization or your proposed project aligns to one of the three approaches to policy and advocacy listed above. In addition, the LOI should address how your organization, or a particular policy project or initiative, aligns with one or more of the Trust’s policy priorities or topics listed below.

  • Equitable Economic Recovery
  • Budgeting and Tax Policy
  • Fair and Affordable Lending and Access to Capital
  • Land Use and Blighted Properties
  • Community Investment and Development Incentives
  • Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Civic Engagement and Representation
  • Community Safety

Finally, Open Call LOI submissions must clearly articulate how the policy area of focus and proposed activities will, over time, contribute to closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap.

If an LOI progresses to the full proposal stage, the proposal must address at least one of the policy priorities (listed above) that align with the Trust’s policy agenda and approaches to policy and advocacy.

If invited to submit a full proposal, we will ask that you identify measures of progress for the proposed activities that can be achieved during the grant period.

An invitation to submit a full proposal does not guarantee funding. The Trust will evaluate full proposals along the following dimensions:

  • Alignment with the Trust policy areas of interest as stated above.
  • Issue or policy focus ripeness for change.
  • Organization’s ability to achieve progress on stated outcomes and measures of progress during the grant period.
  • Recognition as a leader in the community the policy topic aims to serve and/or expert in the issue the policy seeks to address.
  • Financial health, leadership, and governance of the lead organization or fiscal agent.
  • Demonstration that the policy issues, perspective, and activities elevate community voice or perspective and/or stem from community-identified priorities.
  • Commitment of the organization to racial and ethnic diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Municipal-, township-, county-, and state-level policy ideas will be considered. For federal-level efforts, applicants must demonstrate the policy’s impact on the Chicago region as well as their connection to an existing national infrastructure to drive policy forward.

Grant Amounts

If ultimately awarded funding, grant amounts will range from $25,000 to $75,000, depending on the proposal’s scope.

Both project and general operating support will be considered. However, if your organization is already receiving general operating support from the Trust, we will only consider your application for project support.


Eligible applicants include:

  • Nonprofit organizations with evidence of tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • Organizations with a 501(c)(3) organization acting as fiscal agent
  • Local government entities

Application Process

Ideas are submitted through a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) through GrantCentral, the Trust’s online grants management system. Returning users can log in and begin an application.  If you are new to GrantCentral, your first step will be to create an account for your organization. Once you receive your password by email, you can log into your new account, create an organization profile, and then enter your letter of inquiry.

Organizations with ideas that align competitively with the requirements of the Open Call may be invited to submit a full proposal.

The Trust will review and follow up on Open Call Ideas within two weeks of receipt. If invited to submit a full proposal, organizations will have a minimum of three weeks to submit a full proposal.

For Open Call Ideas to be considered in time for a potential August 2021 funding decision, full proposals–if invited–must be submitted by July 30, 2021.

Information Sessions & Resources

Questions about this funding opportunity? Find out more in our Frequently Asked Questions. We will update FAQs based on common questions we receive.

Trust staff will be available for “office hours” to answer any questions you might have about this opportunity on Fridays from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. If you are interested in a time slot during office hours please contact Alex Ivory


For technical questions about your GrantCentral application, please contact our grants management staff at

For questions about the funding opportunity, please contact Aimee Ramirez, manager of policy and advocacy, at, or Alex Ivory, impact coordinator, at

Quick links:

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Do I need to provide a lot of organizational information when I submit an Open Call idea such as organization financials and demographic information?

    No. Open Call ideas are not full proposals. You will submit a brief and carefully constructed concept using a user-friendly letter of inquiry (LOI) process through the Trust’s GrantCentral portal.

    Can I submit an Open Call idea if I am a current grant recipient of the Trust?

    Yes. Being a current grant recipient does not exclude you from submitting an Open Call idea, nor does it preclude Policy and Advocacy staff from inviting a full proposal. However, if your organization is already receiving general operating support from the Trust, we will only be able to consider your application for project support.

    How detailed does my Open Call idea need to be?

    Given the space limitations of the Open Call submission form, our goal is for clarity of the idea rather than extensive details about it. Details would come at a later stage. Provide enough information to convey the concept and anticipated impact of the idea.

    My idea has elements of multiple policy issues listed under the Open Call and/or leverages more than one advocacy approach. Is this okay?

    Yes. Systemic change doesn’t happen in silos and frequently requires a multifaceted approach. Ideas that incorporate more than one policy issue and/or advocacy approach are welcome and encouraged.

    Can I submit an idea through the Open Call if it pertains to one of the Trust’s other strategies?

    Ideas that address the policy priorities and approaches outlined in the Open Call, which are in alignment with the Trust’s grant making priorities, are welcome.

    My idea isn’t currently part of a collaboration. Can I still submit it?

    Yes. However, if collaboration is necessary for your idea to be executed, we would expect that a collaboration will be established for a full proposal to be considered.

    How does the Trust define collaboration?

    Working together on a shared agenda across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors; across neighborhoods and jurisdictions; across organizations and institutions; or across topic areas and disciplines.

    My idea isn’t likely to attract grant support from other funders. Can I still submit?

    Yes. The Trust recognizes there are fewer grant opportunities available for advocacy efforts and that some policy ideas take years to reach the implementation process or demonstrate a positive impact. Ideas submitted through the open call also provide The Trust staff with better insights into the initiatives grant recipients are working on. These insights can help make Open Call grant recipients more competitive when applying for larger grants tied to the Trusts strategies toward closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap.

    May I submit an idea if I do not work for a 501c3 nonprofit organization or a government entity?

    Yes. However, for an idea to be invited for a full proposal you will need a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization or a government partner to serve as applicant or fiscal sponsor. The Trust does not make grants to individuals.

    Can I apply if my idea is not centered around majority Black and Latinx individuals or communities?

    Yes. However, for an idea to be invited to a full proposal it must demonstrate that it would contribute toward closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap.

    My idea requires state and/or federal reforms. Since the geographic focus of my idea is not Chicago or Cook County, am I still eligible to submit?

    Ideas that benefit the residents of Cook County may require intervention from city, municipal, county, state, and/or federal government. Such ideas that require reforms from larger jurisdictions should articulate how the reform would benefit residents of Chicago and/or Cook County or the geography within the region the idea aims to serve. Since federal legislation is much more complex, the idea should also include references to national organization(s) working on the reform and how this idea will contribute to achieve the collective goal.

    Can I submit an Open Call idea for capital expenses such as vehicles, equipment, or buildings?

    The Trust generally does not fund capital expenditures beyond program related supplies and equipment. However, capacity investments such as staff, consultants, or contractual services would be eligible expenses through the Open Call.

    Does submitting an Open Call idea guarantee an invitation to submit a full proposal?

    No. For ideas that align closely with the Open Call priorities and strategies, the Policy and Advocacy staff may invite a conversation to talk further about the idea. This may or may not result in the invitation of a full proposal.

    When can I expect to hear from the Trust after I submit an idea?

    The Policy and Advocacy team will acknowledge receipt of the idea within 72 business hours of submission. We will review and follow up on Open Call Ideas within two weeks of receipt.

    • For ideas that align closely with the Open Call priorities, strategies, and grant criteria, the Policy and Advocacy team may invite a conversation to talk further about the idea. This may result in the invitation of a full proposal, at which point full proposal criteria will apply.
    • Non-competitive ideas will receive notification that they will not advance to a full proposal.

    How often will the grants be made under the Open Call program?

    Because the Open Call takes ideas on an ongoing basis, grants will generally be made on a bimonthly basis provided the idea advances to the full proposal stage. The applicants invited to submit a proposal should anticipate a minimum of 4 months from submissions of idea to notification of grant decision.

    May I submit more than one Open Call idea per year?

    Yes. There is no limit to the number of ideas you can submit.