Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation

OVERVIEW: The Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation supports the environment, health, education, and music in California.

FUNDING AREAS: Environment, health, education, music

IP TAKE: California-based arts and environment initiatives are the two biggest causes for this funder. Make sure arts and environment, as they directly impact residents, are somehow addressed in new grant requests.

PROFILE: Established in 1982, the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation supports nonprofits that are aligned with the foundation’s broad philanthropic pursuits. In the beginning, Clarence and his brother and sister served as trustees of the foundation. After the founder passed away in 1988, the foundation filled the board with members of the Heller and Mandell families, hired a staff, and began full-time operations in 1990. The foundation accepts grant applications in three program areas: environment and health, education, and music.

Heller combines education and health causes into one category and looks for programs that prevent harm to human health from environmental hazards. This program supports planning and development projects that advance environmental and social goals with good environmental practices. It also supports sustainable agricultural and food systems. For its music funding, Heller supports programs that encourage the pursuit and accessibility of chamber and symphonic music. It funds community-based ensembles, community music center, schools, and institutes to increase and diversify audiences. The foundation’s education program priorities are supporting educators to improve their teaching skills and also supporting environmental and arts education programs. Past grant recipients include the following: Heart of Los Angeles, Education Outside, and Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

Grants typically range from $10,000 to $50,000. Review the listing of past grants on the funder’s website. The foundation gives priority to nonprofits in California, and recent grantees are based in Berkeley, Monterey, Oakland, and San Francisco.

This foundation accepts unsolicited letters of inquiry from nonprofits. There are two rounds of funding each year in May or June and again in November. Watch the video tutorial for using the online application system before getting started. The foundation trustees occasionally recommend special projects for funding, but these typically fall outside of the three focus areas. Organizations cannot apply directly for these grants. To get in touch with the staff for general questions, send an email to or call 415-989-9839.


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