Capacity Building

The objective of the Capacity Building grant program is to broaden and strengthen the Foundation's applicant pool and ultimately increase the amount of funding opportunities for land acquisition projects.

Please see How to Apply to learn about preparing your Letter of Inquiry Application Form and to get the latest information on deadlines.

Application Deadlines:Letters of Inquiry are due January 21, or July 1, 2016.  

Review Process:

4 months. The Foundation evaluates Letters of Inquiry against the funding criteria below. Within two months of the above deadlines, a committee of the Foundation's Board of Trustees will invite some or all of the applicants to submit Full Proposals for consideration by the Board of Trustees that announces grants in early May and early November. The Foundation's review process is competitive.

Available Support:The Foundation will award a limited number of individual grants of no more than $40,000 over a 24-month grant period to support a range of activities designed to assist small land trusts and not-for-profits in Illinois in building their capacities to purchase land and/or conservation easements. Funding for the second year is often contingent upon the grantee raising matching funds during the first year of the grant program.

Restrictions: The Foundation will not provide funding for reoccurring operating costs under this program.

Each capacity building project is unique to the organization it is designed to strengthen and assist. The majority of projects funded are two years in length.


To be eligible for consideration for a grant to assist with organizational capacity building, the applicant organization's Board of Directors should, at a minimum, have identified specific land acquisition and protection goals and completed some initial organizational planning. There is no "one-size-fits-all" answer for how much planning should be accomplished before a request for support is submitted. Successful applicants for capacity building projects appear to be one step away from land acquisition as opposed to several steps. This means that the work proposed must be designed to build off any initial organizational planning so that, at the completion of the two-year capacity building project, the grantee organization is in the position to start purchasing land and/or conservation easements to achieve their previously identified land protection goals.

Some grantees will be further along the path of becoming a major land conservation organization in their respective focus areas at the end of the two-year grant. At a minimum, each grantee should emerge as a stronger organization ready to actively protect land.

Allowable Activities

Below is a list of some, not all, of the allowable activities under the Capacity Building Grant Program. The objective of the Capacity Building program is to help all-volunteer groups and organizations with limited staff to access professional assistance in working towards their organizational goals. The Foundation will consider requests that include limited support for staff costs related to the specific capacity building project activities during the second year provided that the applicant organization is able to raise a match for these funds during the first year.

  • Strategic Planning
  • Fundraising
    • For Land Acquisition Fund
    • For Defense Fund to protect the grantee's land-holdings from damage and encroachment
    • To become self-sustaining
  • Board Development
  • Organizational Development
    • Land Trust Alliance organizational assessment and training
    • Adoption and implementation of Standards and Practices of Land Trust Alliance



Rarely will the Foundation award a Capacity Building grant for the full cost of the project.  At the conclusion of a Capacity Building project, grantees should be self-sustaining and ready to begin acquiring and protecting natural areas.  The additional resources that an applicant will bring to the project as well as its plan for fundraising both during and after the project ends will be taken into consideration during the Foundation's proposal review process.

Please see How to Apply to learn about preparing your Letter of Inquiry Application Form and to get the latest information on deadlines.