Envisioning Justice Grants for Individuals

Hero EJ Grants for Individuals

Up to $5,000




May 15, 2024


Jul 16, 2024

These project-based grants support individuals such as educators, organizers, artists, and others who use the arts and humanities to work toward a truly just society. Research projects, podcasts, grassroots publications, and public performances are just a few of the impactful initiatives we fund to create understanding about mass incarceration and its impact on communities in Illinois. By supporting those doing this important work, we build more affirming, engaged, and empowered communities.

Award Timeline

The entire grant review process typically takes six weeks (about one and a half months) from the deadline until applicants are notified about funding. The timeline for activities seeking funding should not begin until 12 weeks (about three months) after the initial proposal deadline. Applicants should submit one grant application per cycle. 

  1. Proposals are reviewed. Applicants may be invited to share more details about their planned project to support the review process. (Six weeks)
  2. Successful applicants are notified (One to two weeks) 
  3. Applicants review and sign grant agreements. Grant funds are issued two to three weeks after the signed grant agreement is received.
  4. Within 30 days of the conclusion of a project or grant period, grantees must complete a final grant report.
Eligibility & Guidelines


  • Applicants for this category include, but are not limited to: artists, humanists, community organizers, policy makers, journalists, and community advocates.
  • Based anywhere in Illinois; individuals from the following areas are particularly encouraged to apply: East St. Louis, Decatur, Carbondale, Galesburg, Urbana-Champaign, and the Bloomington-Normal Metro Area. However, applicants from anywhere in Illinois are eligible.
  • Priority will be given to projects that are: 
  • regional or statewide in scope
  • partnership oriented 
  • centering impacts of mass incarceration on the following populations:
    • currently or formerly incarcerated individuals
    • people serving long-term sentences
    • young people, particularly those who are justice involved
    • women, particularly women of color and/or impacted by gendered violence
    • LGBTQAI+ community
    • migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants
    • elderly populations
    • people with disabilities 
    • Indigenous populations 
  • Or that focus on communities that are:
    • The site of a prison or jail
    • Experiencing significant incarceration; and/or
    • Experiencing significant demographic change as a result of the criminal legal system

Questions about your eligibility? View our Frequently Asked Questions or contact us.


  1. Individuals can apply for grants of up to $5,000. No matching funds are required.
Evaluation & Documentation

Evaluation and documentation are important to us, and we are eager to see how grant applicants define success and plan to measure progress toward it. We ask grant applicants to describe in precise terms the project's desired outcome, and how they will know if it was successful. Within 30 days of the conclusion of a project or grant period, grantees must complete a final grant report.

We ask all Grant recipients to document their initiatives or events by taking photos, recording audio or video, and sharing their experience with us. We want to share with others the great work that grantees are doing and frequently feature stories of grantee partners in our news and on social media @ILHumanities.

How to Apply

Apply using our grant application portal, Foundant.


  1. View a preview of the application as a PDF. (This document should not be filled out for your application; apply online using the link provided)
  2. Please use the location-specific application. Select the proposal that aligns with where your organization is based, regardless of where programming takes place. Illinois Humanities is committed to geographic diversity and equitably serving the entire state.
  3. Applicants should submit one grant application per cycle.
  4. Deadline*: 5:00 p.m. CST on July 16, 2024

*When the grant deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline will move to the next business day.

Request an interview

If you are new to the world of proposal writing and would like to conduct an application by interview with an Illinois Humanities staff member, reach out to us at ejustice@ilhumanities.org at least 3 weeks ahead of the application deadline to arrange a time to talk.

We ask that anyone choosing this option come to the interview with developed thoughts on the project they’d like to propose, with details regarding the timeline, budget, audience, etc.

Grantee Resources
  1. Complete your final report via our grantee portal.
  2. Official IH Logo (August 2021 version "Illinois Humanities" is bolded)
  3. Grant Acknowledgement Language: This program was made possible in part by a grant from Illinois Humanities.
  4. Resources for grantee partners and grant seekers.

Below is a brief description of a funded project.

"The Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) pays bond for people charged with crimes in Cook County, Illinois. In collaboration with local artists and collectives, CCBF will create art, infographics, and print materials to raise awareness and public understanding of the Pretrial Fairness Act. These pieces will be used on social media platforms; physical handouts; press conferences; and as part of a traveling art exhibit on pretrial justice."

EJ Gallery Vershawn Sanders Ward 2018

Artist Vershawn Sanders-Ward performs at an Envisioning Justice event (2018)

EJ grants individual speaker

Artist Mykele Deville addresses a crowd of Envisioning Justice collaborators and partners at an event (2019)

Contact Us

Tony Pizarro
Program Manager

(312) 374-1565

Grantee Partner Spotlight

IMG 0579 MHC members with print publication
(Photo by Mari Jane Wemken)

Sonja Henderson

Chicago mothers find healing and community

Through collaborations, art, storytelling, and support from Illinois Humanities Envisioning Justice program initiatives, Sonja Henderson and the Mothers Healing Circle create a space for Lawndale mothers to disrupt the cycle of pain and suffering caused by the loss of children to street- and state-violence. Learn more about the work of Sonja and the MHC.

Learn More

Frequently Asked Questions

What is your definition of the humanities?

The humanities are the examination of what it means to be human through the interpretation and discussion of all forms of thought, interest, and expression.

We value traditional humanities disciplines, such as art history, literature, history, and philosophy. However, our emphasis on the public humanities means that we look at the humanities as more than an academic discipline. For us, the public humanities are a mode of inquiry and conversation that aims to engage, support, or challenge the ideals, beliefs, tensions, and prejudices of the communities in which we live. We believe that important thought can happen outside of the academy–in neighborhood institutions, schools, churches, and at kitchen tables across the country.

We are especially interested in instances of the public humanities that promote civic engagement–in raising critical issues facing everyday people and conducted with the hope of increasing their thirst for staying engaged. Rather than being defined by rigid disciplinary boundaries, it is the humanistic lens, which emphasizes curiosity, questioning, and dialogue, that matters.

Does your organization have a working definition of the public humanities? Share it with us–we’re eager to explore how others are addressing this complex question.

Can I apply for more than one Envisioning Justice grant?

Applicants can submit proposals to both categories of Envisioning Justice grants for individuals and organizations, but only one award will be given per grant cycle. If you currently have an open Envisioning Justice grant, you must submit your final report form for your current grant prior to submitting a new proposal.

You may not submit more than one application for the same Envisioning Justice grant category.

You may apply for an Envisioning Justice grant while having an open Vision, Action, Multiplier, General Operating, Activate History, or Foreground Rural Initiative grant.

Who reviews and selects proposals?

Illinois Humanities oversees the review and selection of awards with an advisory committee consisting of staff and advisors from across Illinois, including other grant-makers, past grant recipients, peers in justice work, and board members. 

Is this a one-time grants program?

Envisioning Justice grants have been awarded since 2017, and we work diligently to ensure that the organization will continue to offer this funding opportunity. 

What activities and expenses does Illinois Humanities not fund?

Illinois Humanities supports public humanities programs, initiatives, and organizations. We do not fund:

  • Activities that promote a specific political position or ideology
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Businesses, for-profits
  • Capital projects (i.e., renovation or purchase of buildings or land)
  • Endowment contributions
  • Foreign travel
  • Lobbying
  • Major equipment purchases (though equipment to assist a specific program is admissible)
  • Out-of-state programs that have no specific relevance or thematic connection people in Illinois (though technically a grant recipient or fiscal agent can be located elsewhere in the U.S.)
  • Programming that falls outside of the humanities
  • Social services (though a social services agency may apply for funding of a humanities project)
Who can apply?

Nonprofit organizations can apply for Illinois Humanities grants. This includes 501(c)3 organizations and nonprofits under state law, as well as libraries, schools, faith-based organizations, and universities. We do not accept grant applications from individuals (unless otherwise indicated) or for-profit companies. If you are unsure about whether you can apply, reach out to us.

Why does Illinois Humanities have a grant-making program?

Illinois Humanities has been making grants since its inception in 1973 with over 3,000 awards given, totaling over $22 million. We are proud to have helped support dozens of documentary films, conferences, exhibits, training programs, oral history projects, and scores of other activities. We are firm believers in the many organizations and individuals throughout the state of Illinois that value the humanities, culture, and dialogue as community-building activities, and wish to help them fulfill their missions, carry out high-quality programming, and grow their organizations. We are indebted to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly for the support that allows this grantmaking program to exist.

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