Get That Bechtel Money While You Still Can

The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation (see IP’s Profile) has been a major player in the Bay Area for years, but its days of funding STEM education and environmental conservation are coming to an end. The foundation has announced that it will invest all its assets by 2020, in a “spend down” strategy committed to “identifying lasting solutions for education and the environment sooner, rather than later.” Grantees interested in Bechtel funds should inquire soon, as these funds won’t be around forever.

The Bechtel Foundation invests heavily in environmental solutions with an eye towards improving water and land management in California. Its water program emphasizes the importance of science based solutions promoted through connected networks of government, business, and nonprofits. Its land-based program looks to coordinate stakeholders and build pilot projects, as well as strengthen statewide systems such as California State Parks. In 2013, Bechtel gave $25 million to San Francisco’s Presidio national park, the largest cash gift in the history of national parks.

The Bechtel Foundation notes in its spend down strategy that it will continue to focus on “select high-performing organizations to increase their ongoing impact.” The foundation also hopes to “foster the development of models that can become the standard practices of tomorrow,” including support for projects, partnerships, and organizations that can position California for success in the decades to come. The Bechtel Foundation spent over $108 million in 2013 on education and environment grants. Its budget for 2014 is $129 million.

Stephen D. Bechtel, founder of his namesake foundation, is nearing 90. His advanced age may be one reason the Bechtel Foundation is spending down. However, the Bechtel fortune may not be done with philanthropy entirely. In a media release, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation notes that Mr. Bechtel has established foundations for each of his children and grandchildren, with the hope that they, too, will be responsible philanthropists. The other Bechtels are keeping a low profile, but this family may not be out of the philanthropy game quite yet.