Journalism as Awareness for Populations in Need

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."

The trust distributes grants to four different groups in need: Foster Youth, Elders, Veterans and People with Disabilities. Its recent giving shows it understands how journalism can be a tool for the advocacy and awareness for prevalent issues for these populations—and the issues that matter most to this funder. As the trust itself puts it:

The majority of the Trust’s funding supports organizations that provide direct services to individuals. In addition, the Trust supports organizations intervening at various levels to effect positive change— the individual, the family, and the community— as well as organizations striving to bring about changes in systems, policies, and/or behaviors that contribute to improved well-being and opportunity for its target populations.

Recently, the Smith Trust has given to journalistic enterprises in two of its four giving sectors. Under the Foster Youth umbrella, $100,000 over two years went to Fostering Media Connections (Los Angeles, CA) "to use solution-based journalism to advance child welfare reform." In its Veterans sector, the trust granted $150,000 to the Center for Investigative Reporting (Emeryville, CA) "to investigate and raise awareness of issues affecting veterans' lives and benefits."

There's nothing to stop the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust from supporting journalistic enterprises in the other areas too. Across the board, the trust provides a rigorous assessment of the needs of these targeted populations and the trust’s 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, in order to understand how your journalism project will best fit.

And attack the application 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 therein 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 those with less than 70 percent of costs supported by government funding. (The application provides a notably 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-sized grants, typically ranging from $30,000 - $100,000 per year, and will give multi-year gifts for both program and general operating costs.

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.

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.

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