Firedoll Foundation

OVERVIEW: The Firedoll Foundation supports community development, entrepreneurship, immigrant issues, human rights, environmental conservation, traumatic brain injury in Northern California.

FUNDING AREAS: Community development and entrepreneurship, immigrant issues and human rights, environmental conservation, survivors of traumatic brain injury, peace in the Middle East

IP TAKE: The best Bay Area opportunities are in self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship and better opportunities for immigrants.

PROFILE: Based in Walnut Creek, California, the Firedoll Foundation is the foundation of Sandor and Faye Straus, who met during Senator Eugene McCarthy's 1968 campaign for the presidency. Sandor has been involved in financial investing since the 1980s with Renaissance Technology Corp. and Edgestream Partners LP. Faye has worked in federal and local government positions and has been active in the fields of public education, maternal and child health, and Jewish-Palestinian reconciliation. This is a private family foundation founded by “two unrepentant liberals from the '60s who still believe in the motto, ‘If you are not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.’” The foundation was named after the founders’ two cats, Fireworks and Dolly. Firedoll funding areas are community development and entrepreneurship, immigrant issues and human rights, environmental conservation, survivors of traumatic brain injury, and peace in the Middle East.

The two funding areas that are most specific to the Bay area are community development and entrepreneurship and immigrant issues and human rights. Both of these grant categories are focused on Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. For immigration grants, this funder has supported alternatives to prison and legal aid for immigrants facing deportation or detention. Firedoll has been interested in environmental projects that combine conservation with sustainable development, especially ones that involve protecting old-growth forests, rivers and fish populations. The foundation considers traumatic brain injury to be an “orphan” disability in the U.S., and therefore funds community-based, post-acute services for brain injury survivors. Firedoll tends to award environmental grants in Northern California and brain injury grants throughout California.

Foundation grants typically range from $5,000 to $25,000, and the foundation awards about $1.5 million to $2 million each year. View a list of current grantees on the foundation website.  Grantmaking is largely focused on Northern California. However, Bay Area groups should know that Firedoll does not support causes in San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma or San Mateo Counties (except for traumatic brain injury causes) and funding also excludes any Bay Area conservation and restoration projects. Firedoll provides both project support and general support (for returning grantees). Firedoll does not fund organizations with budgets less than $150,000 or for causes like education, animal rescue, youth leadership or climate change. It prefers to support projects that can be completed in a year, rather than long-term initiatives.

Firedoll accepts unsolicited letters of inquiry for its community development, immigration and human rights, and Middle East peace programs from nonprofits. However, the funder is not accepting new unsolicited inquiries for its environmental conservation program. It publishes the net open solicitation periods on its website. Direct general questions to the foundation staff at 925-937-3112 or via online form.

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