Request for Proposals: Businesses of Color Partnerships Fund

RFP release: June 10, 2019
Information sessions: June 18, June 26 & June 28, 2019
LOI deadline: July 10, 2019
Proposal deadline: August 16, 2019
Site visits: First two weeks of September 2019
Funding decision: September 24, 2019
Announcements: October 2019

The Chicago Community Trust is now accepting proposals to support collaborations committed to better serving entrepreneurs of color in the Chicago region.

About this funding opportunity

In Chicago, small businesses comprise 58% of Chicago jobs as a whole and a full 70% in underinvested neighborhoods, according to a report by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. However, in the Chicago region, African-American and Latinx-owned businesses comprise just 8% of all small businesses.

The 2018 Assessing Chicago’s Small Business Ecosystem report summarizes research on the small business ecosystem and the needs of businesses owned by women and people of color. The challenges and needs identified were:

  • Improved business service delivery
  • Enhance service options and make them more accessible
  • Expand access to business networks and capital

To support these needs, The Chicago Community Trust, The Coleman Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Robert R. McCormick Foundation are now accepting Letters of Intent from eligible applicants to lead collaborations committed to better serving entrepreneurs of color.

The RFP process is designed to encourage sustainable and collaborative partnerships to support a growing and thriving community of businesses of color in Chicago and Cook County. The following components and activities are prioritized for this RFP:

  • Sustainable partnership and collaboration
  • Improved businesses readiness for and paths to capital services and procurement
  • Specialized services and mentorship by industry, business life-cycle, and professional business services
  • Access to new business networks and right-fit and culturally competent mentorship
  • New ways to deliver aforementioned holistic services and supports
  • Stronger capacity of BSOs
  • Partnerships to advance a stronger and more connected small business field of practice

The one-year grant awards will range between $50,000 to $175,000, with the possibility for renewal, to support partnerships that have a trusted relationship with entrepreneurs of color and representation of communities of color and have business service and development expertise. The lead applicant must be a 501(c)(3) or government organization.


Application Process

If you are interested in applying, please review the complete RFP to determine if your project is a match. Returning users of GrantCentral, the Trust’s online grants management system, can log in now to update their organizational profile, review the RFP and submit a letter of intent.

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 to complete an organizational profile, review the RFP and submit a letter of intent.

Letters of intent must be received through GrantCentral by 11:59 p.m. on July 10, 2019. Selected applicants will be invited by July19 to submit a full proposal, which will be due by 11:59 p.m. on August 16.


Information Sessions

At three information sessions, Community Impact staff will discuss the funding opportunity in detail and answer any questions from grant applicants:

June 18, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Robert R. McCormick Foundation
205 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 4300
RSVP here

June 26, 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.
Open Center for the Arts
2214 South Sacramento Avenue
RSVP here

June 28, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Gallery Guichard
436 East 47th Street
RSVP here



For technical questions about GrantCentral and the proposal submission process, please contact our grants management team at For questions about proposal content, please contact Joanna Trotter, senior director of community impact, at

We look forward to receiving your application.


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