Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: This funder supports many local causes in the areas of the environment, human health, education and music. Letters of inquiry are accepted at any time, and California nonprofits are given priority.

FUNDING AREAS: Environment, human health, education, music

IP TAKE: Local arts and the local environment are the two biggest causes for this funder. Even if your organization is more tied to education or health, make sure arts and environment as they directly impact residents are somehow intertwined.

PROFILE: The Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation was established in 1982 to support nonprofits aligned with the foundation’s broad philanthropic pursuits. Upon establishment, Clarence and his brother and sister served as trustees of the foundation. After Clarence passed away in 1988, the foundation filled the board with members of the Heller and Mandell families, hired a staff, and in 1990 began full-time operations.

The foundation accepts grant applications in three program areas: environment and health, education and music. There are two rounds of funding each year in May/June and November, with priority given to proposals from organizations in California.

Heller lumps 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 tends to support 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. You can view a list of grantees to better understand this funder’s past support on the Recent Grantees page.

The foundation’s education program priorities include helping educators improve teaching skills, and support for environmental and arts education programs. As you can see, the education program is closely tied to the other two funding areas, but is targeted specifically at children and youth. The foundation trustees occasionally recommend special projects for funding, but these typically fall outside the three focus areas and grantseekers cannot apply for them directly.

The application process begins with a letter of inquiry submitted through the foundation’s online application system. After creating an account, you’ll need to provide a description of your organization, purpose and scope of your project, and projected project budget. LOIs are accepted at any time. Watch the video tutorial for the online application system before getting started. The staff may request a meeting with potential grantees to learn more about a project, and they will also grant access to the full application process if interested.

Based in San Francisco, the foundation is led by a staff of three, and nine officers and directors. Executive Director Bruce Hirsch is your best point of contact for the environment and health programs, and Senior Program Office Stan Hutton is the best contact person for music and education programs. For general questions, email or call 415-989-9839.


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