American Honda is a Sporty, Mid-Sized Funder for Extracurricular Science Programs

In giving for science education, there are some foundations and initiatives looking to sweep the nation with massive coordinated efforts. And then there are others simply trying to help worthy and innovative organizations to make a difference with kids in their own backyards. American Honda Foundation is firmly in the latter camp, making mid-range, five-figure grants with a soft spot for informal education programs.  

Funding is all over the map, geographically and by topic, but the foundation gives a lot to out-of-the-classroom programs, from botanical gardens to Boys and Girls Clubs serving a variety of cities or regions nationwide.

The foundation, the philanthropic arm of the auto company’s American operation, is relatively small, giving about $1.6 million a year, and has firm range on grant size—$20,000 to $75,000—which means that they end up scattering that funding pretty far and wide, with more than 30 grants a year. That and the fact that they strategically only give to STEM education means they are a fantastic target for a small-to-medium-sized nonprofit looking to get kids into science. They’re sort of a Goldilocks of STEM education funders, not too big, not too small. 

And while there’s quite a diverse spread of grants, local and regional after school or non-classroom youth programs clearly have an edge. Some of the grantees are fairly straightforward, such as a $60,000 grant to train youth workers in DC about STEM topics and curriculum. Or a $40,000 grant to Girls Incorporated, a technology camp for middle school girls.

But some of the programs are quite unique, if not a bit odd. In a good way.

One grantee, The Works, is a Minnesota-based program that seizes on that favorite kid pastime of taking things apart, by engaging even kindergartners in engineering projects. Another similarly trade-based science program is at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas, recruiting police detectives to teach adolescents skills of law enforcement, forensics and medical examination. Sort of like CSI camp. 

But my favorite of American Honda’s informal science education grants, hands down, goes to the Charleston Animal Society in South Carolina, for Shadowing at the Shelter. The program takes high schoolers and invites them to work alongside a veterinarian, hands on, once a month at an animal shelter. Teens learn all about various pet diseases, biology and animal care. And each participant gets to conduct a physical exam on an actual puppy. You can just imagine that grant proposal sliding across desks of the foundation’s board, to a chorus of simultaneous awwwwwws. 

So if you have a similarly adorable project you’re trying to fund, or really if you have any unique STEM education project in your community that needs a nice, mid-size chunk of cash, American Honda could be just the right fit.