A Look at the Sacks Family Foundation’s Chicago-Area Giving

The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo: JHVEPhoto/shutterstock

With deep roots in the financial industry and in the Chicago area, Michael and Cari Sacks are philanthropists based in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. In 2001, the couple created the Sacks Family Foundation to conduct grantmaking and fund local causes. However, the foundation is not transparent about its grantmaking and does not have a website to guide grantseekers.

Here’s what we know about the Sacks Family Foundation (SFF) and its local commitment to Chicago nonprofits.

Five main areas of giving

SFF takes a broad approach to grantmaking and funds a wide variety of local causes. However, grants tend to fall into one of five categories: the arts, education, human services, health and Jewish organizations. The foundation has been a big supporter of Northwestern University and the Art Institute of Chicago. Other Chicago grantees include My Block My Hood My City, the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation, and the Ounce of Prevention Fund. Organizations in the northern suburbs of Chicago also receive SFF’s funding, including the Open Studio Project in Evanston, Orchard Village in Skokie, and the Moraine Township Charitable Fund in Highland Park.

Typical SFF grantmaking

SFF grants tend to range all the way from $500 to $200,000, although well-established SFF grantees have received major gifts of a million dollars or more. Chicago is the center of grantmaking for SFF — founder Michael Sacks is from Chicago, and his company, Grosvenor Capital Management, is based in the city as well. However, the foundation also supports organizations in New Orleans (Michael Sacks received his B.A. from Tulane University) as well as some groups serving national needs in Washington, D.C. and New York City.

The foundation often awards grants for program support. But it also supports the general operating needs of organizations it has personal relationships with, as well as capital costs for buildings and construction.

Unsolicited applications no longer welcome

In the past, SFF has been open to unsolicited grant requests and considered funding new organizations. But according to the most recent tax records available, this is no longer the case. At this time, SFF only appears to fund preselected charities; however, grantseekers may still wish to contact the foundation directly to inquire whether accessible grant opportunities do exist. Founder Michael Sacks is the foundation’s president and treasurer, while Kenneth Sacks serves as the secretary and Elise Sacks as a director.

Learn more about this funder in IP’s full profile of the Sacks Family Foundation in our Chicago and Illinois nonprofit guide and in our Wall Street donors guide profile of Michael and Cari Sacks.