It's Pretty Tough to Ignore Calder Foundation Focus on Charters

As far as charter funders go, The Louis Calder Foundation (See Louis Calder Foundation: Grants for Charter Schools) has remained mostly under the radar. But that doesn’t mean the Connecticut-based foundation isn’t giving to charter and parochial schools in a major way.

In the last year, Calder’s grants have consistently ranked in the top in terms of size. The largest, $375,000, went to the Charter School Growth Fund. Two Bay Area nonprofits, Seton Education Partners and the KIPP Foundation, were also major grantees, both taking $200,000 grants from the foundation.The foundation recently made 31 grants, averaging about $150,000 to charter management organizations and charter school startups.

True, in terms of giving, Calder might not have the the same reach as leading charter funders —  about $7 million — but their grants are significant. Simply put: For charter fundraisers, Calder deserves attention.

A Renewed Focus on Charters

In recent years, charter school funding has become a signature focus at the foundation. The gist is this: They provide financial support for existing charter schools and charter management organizations for expansion to more grades, as well as regional expansion.

With existing networks, the foundation looks "for measurable, positive results, strong management organizations and a growth plan based on significant prior experience." Calder also provides funding for the development of new charter programs, with a focus on schools that "have a strong vision of their goals, their academic model for preparing students for graduation, the expectations they have of student behavior and the school culture they will strive to create." (Read grants program director Holly Nuechterlein's IP Profile).

Past grants for existing and pilot charter programs offer the best insight into their grant-funding strategy.

As for existing programs, Calder has long been a partner of the KIPP Foundation and regional KIPP organizations, and the foundation has been hailed as a “strong partner” by that CMO. Calder was an early supporter of KIPP’s expansion in New York, as well as Delta regions in the South. Of course, KIPP has become a gold standard in the education reform movement, but the continued support certainly highlights the types of organizations they work with. KIPP is one of the most established CMOs, but they also have well-defined evidence of their success, a solid management structure, and a proven growth model.

The foundation has also ramped up giving for the development of new charter schools. Just recently, Calder made a seed grant available for the founding year of a charter school in San Francisco. Seton Education Partners’ Brillia College Preparatory Charter School took $200,000 grants for two years running from the foundation. Not only did the school meet their charter funding goal, but it also has a Catholic focus, another funding initiative of the foundation.