Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation is based in San Francisco and is primarily focused on education, both in California and nationally. However,  the foundation does award local grants for human services and health, and some of its education funding is focused in the Bay Area. 

FUNDING AREAS: K-12 education, health, human services, community needs.

IP TAKE: This foundation is still a pretty small player on the Bay Area philanthropy scene, but that may well change down the line, given that Charles Schwab is worth $6.5 billion. Keep a close eye on this funder.

PROFILE: Established in 1987, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation is a separate entity from the Charles Schwab Corporate Foundation. And while Schwab may be a billionaire, the foundation's assets and annual giving are pretty modest so far. It gave out over $12.3 million in a recent year. In the past, over half its money has gone to education, with the next largest amount going to human services, and lesser amounts for other types of programs.

On education, the foundation is a big supporter of charter schools and education reform groups, putting money in national players like the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and Teach for America. (You can read more about its ed funding in our profile, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation: Grants for Charter Schools.)

But the foundation also directs a fair amount of its ed funding to local education grantees. Here's what it looks for in the organizations it backs:

  • Autonomous methods to help students and stay accountable
  • Plenty of program options for parents to choose from
  • Talented, well-trained teachers
  • Up-to-date technology implementations
  • Practical ideas that advocate for new innovation

Past local charter school grantees include KIPP Bay Area, the Silicon Schools Fund, and the New Schools Venture Fund-Oakland Fund. 

Meanwhile, under the Human Services and Health grantmaking umbrella, the Schwab Foundation takes on issues like homelessness, poverty and addiction. Unlike the education program, which has a broader focus, this program is focused exclusively on the Bay Area.

The foundation’s major investment is with the Tipping Point Community, an elite-backed outfit that identifies Bay Area non-profits that are the most effective at helping families and individuals break the cycle of poverty. But not all the foundation's human services funding goes throug TPC. On a case-by-case basis, the foundation also invests directly in local non-profits. Schwab has supported Single Stop Bay Area and Year Up San Francisco Bay Area. 

Although the foundation’s Community Needs program might seem like another logical place for local grantmaking, it's actually a pretty broad category that has supported grants for such things as preventing meth abuse in Hawaii and disaster relief in Japan

Local health grants have been made to the San Francisco Free Clinic, the UCSF Center for Prevention of Heart and Vascular Disease, and the UCSF Fertility Preservation Center.

The well-being of veterans is another strong concern of the foundation, but most grantees operate on a national scale. 

The Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation has minimal staffing, and is led by Executive Director Kristi Kimball. Prior to joining Schwab, she worked as an independent planning and grantmaking consultant to several education funders and NGOs, including the Bay Area Council, the Raikes Foundation, and the National Public Education Support Foundation. She also worked for 8 years as a K-12 education program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, managing $85 million in grants to improve local and national education programs.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, this is one of those foundations that does not accept unsolicited grant applications, proposals, or letters of inquiry. Instead, the Schwab Foundation relies upon trusted colleagues and experts to identify organizations with goals that align with foundation priorities. To get in touch with general questions, email info@schwabfoundation.org or call 415-795-4920.

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