Gary Brinson, the founder and former President and CEO of Brinson Partners Inc. (now UBS Global Asset Management), has stepped onto the local and national grantmaking scene in a big way. To kick off his retirement, he established the Brinson Foundation in 2000 and began applying his investment expertise to philanthropy. Here’s what you need to know about Gary Brinson’s giving strategy.
Brinson Cares About His Home Base
The Brinson Foundation is based in Chicago and a sizeable portion of the foundation’s grantmaking takes place in the Chicago metropolitan area. The foundation’s education grants, in particular, are almost always made to organizations that serve individuals and communities in the greater Chicago area. However, the foundation will occasionally consider national education programs that have a broader reach and international education programs that hold a great deal of promise. Unlike the locally-focused education priority, scientific research grants are regularly awarded all across the United States and geographic location is less critical.
Brinson Likes Obscure Education and Scientific Research Programs
For a foundation that basically only has two grantmaking priority areas, Brinson has definitely carved out a niche. This foundation is looking for incredibly specific types of programs within the realm of education and scientific research. Brinson education grants fall into seven focus areas: financial literacy, health care career development, high school/college/career success, liberty/citizenship/free enterprise, literacy, STEM, and student health.
Scientific research grants fall into four categories: astrophysics, cosmology, geophysics, and evolutionary developmental biology. You’ll be hard pressed to find another grantmaker with these specialized fields on its radar. Although the foundation occasionally funds a medical research project, it does not accept unsolicited inquires in this field. Most initial grants are project specific, and Brinson steers clear of multi-year commitments to new grantseekers.
The Foundation Has a “No New Net Grants” Policy
According to a May 2014 foundation statement, new Brinson grants will be made only as existing grants are transitioned from its portfolio and as its financial resources permit. Right now, Brinson’s Board of Directors is conducting an independent review of the foundation’s grant portfolio to identify grantees that don’t strongly resonate with the board and to refine the focus areas. A modest grantee turnover is expected this year and in the years ahead, which will make room for some previously unsupported organizations. Letters of inquiry for education and scientific research programs are accepted throughout the year with no deadlines.
Conciseness is Key
The more concise the better when submitting your initial letter of inquiry to the Brinson Foundation. Download the four-page Grantseeker Information Form from the Inquiries section of the foundation website, but keep in mind this is more of a preliminary introduction than a formal application. Make sure to include a link to your website in your inquiry, since that’s the first place the staff will look for more information about your organization. Don’t bother attaching any supplemental documentation with your initial inquiry, either. The staff typically responds to grantseekers within a few days of receiving this form, however, you’re advised to call or email to follow up if you’ve been hearing crickets chirp for at least 30 days.