Marin Community Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: Marin County may be best known for its wealth and luxury, but there are plenty of low-income residents struggling to pay for housing and school. The Marin Community Foundation (MCF) pays attention to the underprivileged, awarding about $60 million in grants each year.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, affordable housing, poverty, older adults, immigrants, low-income families

IP TAKE: Although MCF gives preferential treatment to Marin County organizations, you still have a good chance at a grant if you're anywhere in the Bay Area. From donor-advised funds, about 55 percent of the money stays within Marin and 45 percent is committed elsewhere.

PROFILE: Some communities get together to host potlucks or organize concerts in the park. Marin County residents pool their money together to keep the Marin Community Foundation running. In 1986, Marin residents Leonard and Beryl Buck got the foundation started with the assets in their trust. Since that time, more than 400 families, individuals, businesses, and community groups have thrown their assets into the mix to support causes in Marin County and the greater Bay Area. Although giving from the Buck Trust is limited to organizations serving the county, almost all of the foundation's grant money stays in the Bay Area.

Marin County is in the north San Francisco Bay area, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco County. Perhaps Marin County is best known for its scenic views, liberal politics, and wealthy citizens. Even though it has one of the highest per capita income rates in the United States, there are still plenty of non-profit organizations pitching programs to the foundation.

All the foundation's discretionary grants benefit the residents of Marin County, unlike grants from the Foundation's donor-advised funds, which support efforts both locally and in communities around the world. MCF' grantmaking objectives are education for low-income children, older adults, immigrants, and financial independence for low-income families.

Since the average home sale in Marin is over $990,000, the foundation acknowledges that most people can't afford to live in the community where they work. It also acknowledges that if you're poor in Marin, you're probably uninsured, working a low-wage job, or living in substandard housing. It's easy to overlook the disadvantaged in Marin County because the ritzy homes and expensive cars are so prominent, but MCF is paying attention. It's one of the largest community organizations in the United States, operating with about $1.6 billion in assets and distributing about $60 million in grants each year.

A majority of recent Buck Trust grants have been going towards closing the education achievement gap ($6.4 million in a recent year), and a good number of grants have been going to ending the cycle of poverty ($2.6 million in a recent year). 

The application process begins with MCF issues an RFP invitation, and interested nonprofits can register on the foundation's online grant center. Only then can you submit a letter of intent, and selected applicants are invited to send in a full proposal. Check out the grant calendar to keep up with new deadlines. Any questions about the grantmaking process should be directed to Sandra Nathan, vice president for grants and loans at 415-464-2519.


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