A Trust Supporting College Opportunities for Foster Youth and Students with Disabilities

The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust was established in 1989 to carry on the giving legacy of May and Stanley Smith, who made their fortune primarily in the world of iron ore mining in Malaysia. The mission of the trust is to support “organizations that offer opportunities to children and youth; adults and families; elders; and people with disabilities that enrich the quality of life, promote self-sufficiency, and assist individuals in achieving their highest potential.”

"Achieving their highest potential" is where college opportunities comes into play, specifically as it intersects with two of the trust's four giving areas: Foster Youth and People with Disabilities. This means, of course, that your program must address the needs of one of these specific populations. K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions are eligible to apply for this support, in addition to 501(c)(3) organizations.

The other specificity is geography. The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust explicitly directs its giving to the Western U.S., though its definition of the West is broad, defining it as Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. (For the record, the trust also gives to British Columbia, Canada.) While the executed work must be done in these states, the trust’s giving history shows that the organization itself can potentially be based elsewhere, with work targeted in the trust’s focused states.

Overall, the May and Stanley Charitable Trust seeks to support programs that provide “dignity, agency, and self-sufficiency”—providing a good blueprint for how to present your college readiness/access/opportunity program.

The trust’s Foster Youth giving covers a broad range of need, supporting organizations that address youth currently in, aged out of, or not yet formally part of the foster care system. The trust’s goals in this area explicitly include the promotion of educational achievement.

The trust’s People with Disabilities giving is focused on independent living, employment and social integration, and the trust explicitly includes “youth transitioning to adulthood” as a population it seeks to support in these contexts. College readiness programming here should fit into a schematic of independence and life/work preparation.

The Smith trust provides a rigorous assessment of the needs of both of these populations, and therefore its goals in each area—as well as discussions of what a successful program would therefore look like. Be sure to read these rubrics comprehensively before attacking the trust’s application.

And attack it you must, because while it begins with an LOI open to all, it is a rigorous one, requiring specific outcomes past and future, as well as comprehensive financial reporting. The trust explicitly states that start-ups, emerging organizations, and new programs are not eligible for its support, and this makes perfect sense once you delve into the LOI—there is no way a new organization or program could discuss financials and recent outcomes with the rigor this funder requires. If you have been around long enough, still be aware that the trust ideally looks for organizations with yearly operating budgets of at least $250,000 and less than 70% of costs supported by government funding. (The application provides a thoughtful section in which to discuss your organization’s relationship with government funding, and why private support is important to your program/organization.)

The good news if you check these boxes: the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust makes healthy grants, typically ranging from $30,000–$100,000 per year, and will give multi-year gifts for both program and general operating costs.

Recent college readiness grantees working with foster youth include the Gateway to College National Network (Portland, OR) "to assist foster youth to complete high school and obtain a post-secondary credential" with $50,000. The trust also gave $60,000 over two years to Los Angeles City College (Los Angeles, CA) "to support current and former foster youth to enroll, persist, and graduate from college."

In the trust’s People with Disabilities sector, recent grantees focused on college readiness include Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO) "to provide college transition and academic support for students with autism or brain injuries" for $100,000 over two years. It also granted $150,000 over two years to California State University Northridge (Northridge, CA) "to provide educational services and support for deaf and hard-of-hearing students."

The May and Stanley Smith’s Charitable Trust’s LOI is rolling; if you’re ready for its rigor, you can apply at any time.