Firedoll Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: In the Bay Area, this funder mostly supports causes of community development and entrepreneurship, immigrant issues and human rights. Funding for environmental conservation and traumatic brain injury survivors is also typically focused on 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: Make sure your program serves Alameda and Contra Costa Counties before pursuing a grant. The best Bay Area opportunities are in self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship and detention alternatives for immigrants.

PROFILE: Based in Walnut Creek, California, the Firedoll Foundation was established by 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.’” Interestingly, it was named after the funders’ two cats, Fireworks and Dolly.

Firedoll funding areas are as follows: 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 is likely to support alternatives to prison and legal aid for immigrants facing deportation or detention.

Firedoll is most 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.

Firedoll provides both project support and general support (for returning grantees). View a list of current grantees on the foundation website.  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. 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/restoration projects.

Read through the guidelines for letters of inquiry and send your pitch to LOI@firedoll.org or by mail to the foundation. Grants range from $5,000 to $25,000, and the foundation awards about $1.5 million to $2 million each year.

The open solicitation period typically runs between January 1 to March 31. However, the foundation has put a hold on environmental conservation funding for now and is no longer accepting new inquiries. Traumatic brain injury inquiries may be submitted at any time of the year.

General questions can be directed to the staff at 925-937-3112 or via online form. The foundation encourages grantseekers to reach out to its program officers with questions and to even to discuss projects that don’t exactly align with its area of focus.

PEOPLE:

  • Neil Sims, Senior Program Officer
  • Stephen Hoeft, Program Officer
  • Arlene Wong, Program Officer

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