Community Stewardship Challenge Grant

The grant provides support in the three categories below, which are not separable:

  • Cash Donation Match: The Foundation provides 3 dollars for every 1 new dollar raised by a nonprofit organization over the 12-month grant period, not to exceed a contribution of $21,000 from the Foundation, to be applied towards stewardship of an eligible project site. The 3 to 1 match applies to net donations only and will not match any fundraising costs, fees, or service charges incurred during donation transfers. 
  • Volunteer Labor: Grantees are eligible to receive $4,000 for stewardship activities upon verification that volunteers have logged 400 hours or more on stewardship activities during the 12-month grant period. An additional $2,000 may be awarded upon verification that volunteers have logged a total of 100 hours on establishing and/or updating social media accounts to publicize stewardship workdays and public events at the project site. 
  • Equipment Purchase: For nonprofit-owned sites, the Foundation will reimburse up to 80% or $5,000, whichever is less, of the capital cost of stewardship equipment purchased during the 12-month grant period. This category of support is not available to government-owned sites.

Pictured: Community members and corporate volunteers from Allstate collecting seed at Spring Creek Valley Forest Preserve in Cook County.

Grant payments received for cash donations and volunteer hours can be used to fund purchases and activities that directly improve the natural habitat. See examples of eligible expenditures under the Eligibility and Funding Tab below.

If you are interested in discussing your potential project in the Community Stewardship Challenge Grant program, please send us an email.

The Foundation prefers to limit its consideration of awards to one grant per eligible organization per year. However, the Foundation may consider awarding a second grant to an eligible organization provided that the two sites are in different counties.

The Foundation has helped to support the care of natural areas located in 35 Illinois counties. Priority will be given to sites located in counties in which the Foundation has not previously awarded a grant.


  • 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations that actively engage volunteers in the management of a publicly-accessible natural area

Applicants are required to provide a Federal Employer Tax ID/Employer Tax ID Number (FEIN/EIN).


  • Solicit funds from members and followers to support the care of the project site
  • Challenge volunteers to log a total of 400 hours in habitat care over 12 months
  • Use grant funds to improve the health of the natural habitat. Please visit the Photo Monitoring Guidelines for requirements.

Site Criteria

  • Natural area and wildlife habitat that is open to the public
  • Cared for with the help of volunteers
  • Owned by a non-profit organization, local government, or government agency
  • Located in Illinois


Grants of up to $32,000 are available for sites owned by nonprofit organizations and grants of up to $27,000 are available for government-owned natural areas. Actual payment is dependent on the result of fundraising and volunteer activity during the grant period. Payments requests are considered and paid out on a TBD schedule during the grant period. No funds will be awarded after 12 months.

A full set of funding guidelines will be provided to eligible applicants.

Examples of the types of activity that can be supported under the grant include:

  • Contracts to conduct a prescribed burn, engineering work and hydrological improvements, removal of invasive species, and/or creation of burn breaks
  • The purchase of plant materials including seed, trees, plants
  • The purchase of supplies including gasoline, herbicide, gloves, goggles, tree protectors, nomex suits, etc.
  • The purchase of monitoring equipment such as magnifying glasses and nets
  • The purchase of wood duck or bluebird houses
  • Grantees may spend up to $1,000 of the Cash Donation award on hand tools
  • Grantees may spend up to $1,000 of the Volunteer Hours award on hand tools
  • Hand tools can include backpack sprayers, loppers, hand saws, small chain saws, rakes, Pulaski axes, water back packs, etc.
  • Grantees may spend a total of $1,000 of the dollars received from the Foundation on the purchase of interpretive signage if the signage highlights the stewardship work and the grant


  • January 31, 2023 – CLOSED
  • July 20, 2023 – CLOSED

Application Process

The following information will be required for the online application.

  1. A completed CS Application Form.
  2. A completed project budget.
  3. A map or maps showing the location of the Project Site and areas within the site to be improved by the grant project, if applicable.
  4. Three to five photos of volunteers working at your project site uploaded individually.
  5. Organizational or departmental operating budget(s) – one for the most recent fiscal year and the one for the upcoming fiscal year (if available)
  6. Financial Statements for the most recent fiscal year including a Statement of Financial Position and Statement of Activities. Also, include any Notes to the Financial Statements.
  7. IRS letter that confirms the organization’s EIN
  8. IRS Tax Status Determination letter
  9. Your organization’s most recent Illinois Charitable Organization Annual Report filed with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office

**If the name listed on IRS 501(c)(3) and EIN letters is different from the organization name listed in the grant application, submit legal documentation to explain this difference. If possible, save this documentation and your EIN letter together as one pdf.**

A confirmation email is sent after an application is received.

The Foundation may follow up with additional questions for applicants.

Award Process

Applicants will be notified of the Foundation’s decision on applications approximately two months after receipt of applications.

The grant award process is competitive, and some projects may be declined.