President Preckwinkle Announces $5 Million in Cook County Starting Block Grants for Community-Based Organizations

New grant initiative provides Capacity Building support to organizations throughout Cook County

(Cook County, IL) - Today, President Preckwinkle joined Cook County Commissioners Dennis Deer, Bridget Gainer, Donna Millier, Josina Morita and Tara Stamps, the Cook County Justice Advisory Council and non-profit leaders to announce $5 million in grants awarded under the Cook County Starting Block Grant initiative. The capacity building grant initiative supports small to medium sized non-profit organizations looking to develop their infrastructure to increase organizational health, growth and sustainability. The new grant initiative aims to increase equity in grantmaking in Cook County and help organizations that play vital roles in local communities meet their goals and achieve greater stability.

“Throughout Cook County, community-based organizations are working on the ground to promote the health, safety, and success of people and communities,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Capacity building for these organizations is important because strong and healthy community organizations help build strong and healthy communities. We are proud to launch the Starting Block Grant initiative to support a diverse and vibrant group of community organizations providing impactful programming and services to residents throughout Cook County.”

The grant initiative is primarily funded through the Cook County Equity Special Purpose Fund, created to address historic and continued disinvestment and inequities in Cook County with additional funding from the grantmaking budget of the Cook County Justice Advisory Council (JAC). The JAC manages the Starting Block Grant initiative on behalf of the offices under the Cook County Board President. The JAC also manages the County’s $110 million Gun Violence Prevention and Reduction Grant Initiative as well as other investments focused on Reentry and Domestic Violence Intervention and Support.

“Cook County’s Starting Block Grant initiative will act as a bridge, connecting community-based organizations to the support they need to innovate, grow and ultimately serve the community at a higher level,” said Avik Das, Executive Director of the JAC. “Often, government grants are focused on programming and services, but this grant initiative recognizes the need for organizations to invest in strengthening how they run and planning for the future. We are proud to be offering this opportunity that will help level the playing field and ensure the success of smaller organizations that are doing impactful, culturally responsive work in communities.”

The grant initiative provides support for capacity building projects including strategic planning, staff training, improvements in bookkeeping, data management, technology and more. The grant opportunity was open to Cook County non-profit organizations with an annual operating budget under $1 million. Organizations working in diverse service sectors from arts and culture to economic development were encouraged to apply.   

Cook County received a strong response to the grant opportunity with 365 applications submitted by the deadline for the first round of funding. The County is awarding grants of up to $100,000 over two years to 51 organizations serving Cook County residents.

"GirlForward is honored to participate in the Cook County Starting Block grant initiative. Thanks to this opportunity, our team will be better equipped to meet the growing needs of newcomer refugee and asylee girls in our community," said Ashley Marie, Executive Director of GirlForward. "It's rare to find grant funding focused on capacity building, making this opportunity transformational for GirlForward. We can now focus on developing our staff and creating pipelines for graduates of our program to join us as volunteers, interns, and, ultimately, the organization's future leaders."

The top service sectors for awarded organizations are Violence Prevention, Education, Community and Economic Development, Arts and Culture, Human Rights, Health and Human Services. The 51 awarded organizations serve over 150 different Chicago neighborhoods and suburban municipalities in Cook County. The community areas served by the highest concentration awarded organizations are Austin, Englewood, East and West Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and Auburn Gresham.

A subsequent grant award cycle is planned for later in 2024. To learn more about the Cook County Starting Block Grant initiative, visit


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