Request for Proposals: Our Great Rivers

RFP release: April 30, 2018
Proposal deadline: June 3, 2018
Funding decision: September 25, 2018

The Chicago Community Trust is now accepting proposals for community-led projects with a direct impact on Chicago’s river system, incorporating elements of two or more of the Trust’s funding arenas—sustainable development, economic development, public health, arts & culture—in an integrated, innovative, powerful way.


About this funding opportunity

In August 2016, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Trust and other civic, government, and community leaders, publicly launched the Great Rivers Chicago, marking the beginning of an era of bold thinking for Chicago’s river system and the 150+ miles of property that lines its banks.

After that public launch, the Trust issued its first call for proposals from communities with ideas for their stretch of the system. In September 2017, 10 ideas were awarded grants totaling $800,000.

Now, in its second year, Trust is again calling for community-led proposals that align with the Our Great Rivers Vision. In order to qualify for funding, projects must incorporate elements of two or more of these funding arenas in an integrated, innovative, powerful way:

  • Sustainable development. Catalytic activities in the built and natural environments that improve the lives of people and habitats while contributing positively to the economy.
  • Economic development. High-impact economic initiatives that support local asset development, economic retention and repurposing, and sustainable business growth that is inclusive, particularly for low-wealth communities experiencing disinvestment.
  • Public health. Collaborative efforts that address environmental, physical and mental health, and build a culture of health through organized community efforts.
  • Arts and culture. Creative endeavors that improve the quality of life of people by diversifying cultural options and expanding access in under-resourced communities.


Proposals must also align with one or more themes of the Our Great Rivers Vision :

  • Inviting Rivers
    Enhancements to infrastructure, information and programming will make our rivers more intuitive, meaningful and exciting places to be, drawing more people for recreation, work and relaxation.
  • Productive Rivers
    They have historically been and will continue to be working rivers that are transportation arteries, commercial corridors and tourism generators.
  • Living Rivers
    From riverbeds to shorelines, plants, animals and people will co-exist in vibrant, healthy ecosystems.



Any stakeholder of the river system is encouraged to apply, particularly those in river-adjacent neighborhoods. Priority consideration will be given to proposals initiated by community-based organizations. This funding opportunity is open to most types of planning, programs and projects. The funding is not available for capital expenditures beyond program-related supplies and equipment.

Who can apply:

  • Nonprofit organizations with evidence of tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or those using a 501(c)(3) fiscal agent
  • Local government entities
  • Organizations located within and/or primarily serving residents of Cook County
  • Organizations with a commitment to diversity and inclusion for their governance, staffing, and populations served; and explicit adherence to non-discriminatory practices in the hiring of staff or in providing services on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin or disability


The geographic eligibility of this funding opportunity is the City of Chicago and suburban communities that share a land or river border with the City of Chicago and have a river or tributary identified in the Our Great Rivers Vision. Proposals must demonstrate a direct and proximate impact on the rivers. View a map of eligible geographies


Grant Amounts

The Chicago Community Trust will make up to 15 grants under this RFP. Grant amounts will range from $25,000 to $100,000.


Application Process

If you are interested in applying, please view the complete eligibility details and proposal evaluation criteria in the Our Great Rivers RFP to determine if your project is a match.

Grant applications are submitted 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 and create an organization profile, then complete your grant application.

Proposals are due no later than midnight on June 3, 2018. Late or incomplete proposals will not be considered.


Information Sessions

There will be two information sessions to provide details and answer your questions about this funding opportunity.

Thursday, May 10
9:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Metropolitan Planning Council
140 S. Dearborn St. #1400
Chicago, IL 60603

Monday, May 14
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Metropolitan Planning Council
140 S. Dearborn St. #1400
Chicago, IL 60603

To attend, please RSVP by email to Angie Leyva at, specifying which date you plan to attend.



For technical questions about GrantCentral and the proposal submission process please contact Nestor Avendano, Grants Coordinator, at

For questions about proposal content please contact Michael Davidson, Senior Program Officer, at


Download the complete RFP here

Create an account or log into GrantCentral