A Look at the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation’s Bay Area Grantmaking

The Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation is perhaps best known for its support of charter schools and ed reform groups, giving money to a number of high-profile national grantees. But there’s a whole other side to Schwab Foundation grantmaking that flies below the radar. Over one third of annual Charles and Helen Schwab grants have been going to human services programs. Better yet, most of these grants went to local organizations in the Bay Area (Read the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation: Bay Area Grants).

Here are a few things that Bay Area nonprofits should know about the Schwab Foundation’s giving in the Bay Area.

Poverty Prevention is Top Priority

The foundation’s biggest human services and health investment is with the Tipping Point Community, an organization that identifies Bay Area nonprofits that are the most effective at helping families and individuals break the cycle of poverty.  Although projects that promise to tackle homelessness, addiction, and health are also fair game under this program umbrella, poverty prevention is the top priority. Other recent poverty prevention grantees are Single Stop Bay Area and Year Up San Francisco Bay Area. Year Up, for example, aims to break the cycle of local poverty by providing young adults with hands-on skills development and workforce training.

Local Education Outfits Do Get Money

Despite the foundation's reputation as a national and statewide player on education, the foundation actually does direct a fair amount of ed funding to local education grantees. Here's what it says it looks for in the organizations it backs:

  • Autonomous methods to help students and stay accountable
  • Plenty of program options for parents to choose from
  • Talented, well-trained teachers
  • Up-to-date technology implementations
  • Practical ideas that advocate for new innovation

Recent grantees include KIPP Bay Area, the Silicon Schools Fund, and the New Schools Venture Fund-Oakland Fund.

Schwab's Giving Is Modest Now, But That Will Likely Change

While Charles Schwab is worth $6 billion, his foundation remains a pretty small operator, both in terms of annual giving and its organizational capacity (with only one staff senior staff member, its executive director). So don't think of this as a major Bay Area funder right now. On the other hand, given the size of Schwab's fortune and his longstanding commitment to philanthropy, bigger giving down the line strikes us as inevitable. This is a funder to watch closely.

The Foundation Cares Deeply About Veterans

The foundation has given generously to groups that support veterans, including wounded veterans. While most of this giving has been to natonal veterans organizations, it's possible to imagine local nonprofits tapping into this clearcut passion.

Unsolicited Proposals are Unwelcome

Unfortunately for grantseekers, this is one of those foundations that doesn't accept unsolicited grant applications, proposals, or letters of inquiry. Instead of providing an open online application system, the Schwab Foundation relies upon trusted colleagues and experts to identify organizations with goals that align with foundation priorities. To get in touch with general questions, send an email to info@schwabfoundation.org or call the staff at 415-795-4920.