Inside the Richard & Susan Smith Family Foundation Focus on Charter Schools

Unlike some other philanthropic foundations that are giving money to Boston Public Schools, the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation is focusing on nontraditional schools that aim to close the achievement gaps in the city. The biggest winner for the 2012-2013 grant period in Smith's book is the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. Roxbury received $800,000 for the renovation of two of their public school buildings, which are under lease from Boston Public Schools. These school buildings will serve 1,800 new Boston students at two new charter middle schools. (See Grants for Charter Schools).

Since 1999, Roxbury has been operating as a free public charter school and consistently outperforming more than 80% of other middle schools across the state. The school has recently expanded to add a second and a third campus, with overarching goals of getting kids into college. The Smith Foundation granted yet another $800,000 award to Brooke Charter Schools to renovate a highway for a second campus of their own, which will serve an additional 2,200 Boston students. The Smith Foundation cites the fact that charter schools receive little or no state funding to renovate and maintain their properties, which seems to explain its recent grant awards.

Unfortunately, Smith Foundation grants for charter school facilities, as well as for its other urban education category boosting human capital, are accepted by invitation only. But with around $10 million in grant money flowing from the foundation, there's a good amount to go around. At this time, Smith only accepts proposals for Small Capital Grants, which is a great way to get your foot in the door.

The grants range in size from $5,000 to $50,000, and the average amount is $30,000 and requests for larger amounts have a way of ticking off the board of trustees. Once the Fall 2013 application period opens up, you can submit your two-page Letter of Request to lyoung@smithfamilyfoundation.org. Review the Application Guidelines for the Small Capital Grants, which are definitely your best bet at this time, and direct inquires to Senior Program Officer, Celina Miranda at 857-404-0704.