Kenneth Rainin Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: Based in Oakland, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation is still a relative newcomer on the Bay Area philanthropy scene. Its giving focuses on education for very young children in Oakland and supporting small to mid-sized arts organizations throughout the Bay Area. It also supports work on inflammatory bowel disease. 

FUNDING AREAS: Reading and student literacy, and dance, theater, film, medical research (inflammatory bowel disease only)

IP TAKE: This is a very focused Bay Area foundation that you should start paying attention to. Rainin's giving is growing, along with its assets, and it's been building a larger and more professional grantmaking operation.  

PROFILE: Over the past couple years, Rainin has been ramping up assets, grantmaking, and staff...making this one of the most promising new(ish) funders in the Bay Area.

At the end of a past year, Rainin reported over $339 million in assets and over $7.4 million in total giving. That giving amount is significantly up from 2012, for example, when it awarded less than $3 million in grants. Rainin has internally promoted staff and built its capacity, further indicating that this is a growing foundation with a lot of grantmaking potential.

Kenneth Rainin was an entrepreneur who made his fortune founding scientific and medical product companies. At the age of twenty-five, he founded Rainin Instrument Company, which distributed laboratory instruments and later sold a line of laboratory pipettes used for liquid sample testing. After moving his business to the Bay Area, Rainin’s pipette brand became the leading brand of pipettes used in modern laboratories and recognized as a standard around the world. Aside from pipettes, he dabbled business ventures related to food manufacturing, wine production, and the gaming/hospitality industries. "He had a very curious mind," said his daughter, Jennifer Rainin. "He had an incredible gift of innovation; he would find a way to make things better."

Over time, Rainin channeled his wealth toward charitable, civic, and cultural activities, including the San Francisco Ballet and medical research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Before his death, he gave over $8 million to fund the Kenneth Rainin Foundation for Crohn’s disease, colitis, and intestinal disorder research at USCF and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. In 2007, he suffered from heart failure and passed away at the age of 68.

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation is based in Oakland and run by Kenneth’s daughter, Jennifer Rainin. The foundation makes grants in three priority areas: inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), improving reading and literacy for very young underserved children, and small to mid-sized dance, theater, and film organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Rainin's health program is focused finding a cure for IBD and has regularly awarded $100,000 grants for IBD research. The program also provides long-term support for previous research award grantees and hosts an annual symposium aimed at speeding innovations to cure IBD. Although this is a national program, Rainin regularly funds researchers from institutions in the Bay Area (including UC Berkeley, UCSF, and Stanford). Rainin's annual health research symposium always takes place in the Bay Area as well. (Read: Where’s the Rainin Foundation Going with Its Work on Inflammatory Bowel Disease).

Only Oakland-based schools and nonprofits are considered for Rainin education grant since the foundation is exclusively focused on the improving literacy rates for Oakland students up to the third grade. However, Rainin's arts program is broader and serves the entire San Francisco Bay Area. The foundation partnered up with the San Francisco Film Society to support projects that boost the Bay Area filmmaking community. Local dance and theater companies must be small- or medium-sized and engage audiences with experimental, dynamic collaborations to be considered for a grant.

Keep up with recent grant news on the foundation news and blog section.  

Each of these three program areas has a separate blog and calendar with rolling deadlines posted on the foundation website. If you have a hard time keeping up with all those Letter of Inquiry and Proposal due dates, sign up to receive the foundation newsletter, which is distributed every couple months. Email is the foundation’s preferred method of contact, and you can submit general questions to the staff at


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