Morris Stulsaft Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: Morris Stulsaft Foundation has a strict focus on children and youth causes in the Bay Area. Most grants are in the $10,000 to $20,000 range and go toward program support. Funding is split between four funding areas, but early childhood education has seen the most support lately.

FUNDING AREAS: Early childhood education, foster youth, youth and art, youth job readiness

IP TAKE: Broaden your perspective of “children and youth grantmaking,” because MSF supports young adults up to 24 years old and funds job training, foster kids, early education, and arts education. This is an accessible and approachable grantmaker to know for Bay Area nonprofits.

PROFILE: Established in 1953, the Morris Stulsaft Foundation is a funder of child and youth causes in the Bay Area. Stulsaft was a European immigrant who arrived in San Francisco as a boy. He found success in the local real estate industry and funneled his fortune into foundation philanthropy. Between 1995 and 2015, the foundation made 2,450 grants totaling about $25 million to Bay Area groups that serve local youth.

In August 2015, the foundation updated its funding priorities to these four programs: support services for foster care children and youth, pathways to work, early childhood education, and participation in the arts. Some aspects of MSF youth funding extend to young adults as old as 24. In December 2015, the funder updated its priorities and stated that it valued effective leadership and innovative programs that support low- income children and youth.

MSF’s foster care program focused on young people between ages five and 24 who are or have been in foster care. The goal of this program is to help students complete high school, get a G.E.D., and stay in college. The foundation’s job program focuses on youth between 15 and 24 years old and supports programs that lead youth to careers in high-demand fields, like health care and construction. If a career-focused nonprofit also serves foster youth, then that’s a bonus.

The early childhood education program at MSF has been all about engaging parents and caregivers and supporting the professional development of early childhood teachers. Infant, toddler, and pre-school centers should pitch programs that encourage parent involvement and serve kids from birth to five years old. Teacher training programs should incorporate movement, sensory perceptions, creativity, and outdoor experiences. And finally, MSF’s arts program targets under-served youth, and grants are awarded to programs connected to a school or school district. Both in-school and after-school programs are considered, but they should feature at least 15 hours of hands-on art making per summer or semester. Independent schools are not considered for grants.

As a general rule, grantmaking is limited to the five San Francisco Bay Area counties of Alameda, Marin, northern San Mateo (extending south to Redwood City), San Francisco, and west Contra Costa. Most funding is program support, but capital requests are considered on an invitation-only basis. Multi-year grant requests are not considered, but subsequent requests may be considered for up to three consecutive years. Site visits are a possibility, but not a sure thing.

In a recent year, the foundation reported just $575,713 in total net assets, yet gave over $1.1 million that year. Past grants have been as low as $1,000 and as high as $50,000. Most grants are about $10,000 or $20,000.

In a past year, MSF committed $335,000 to early childhood education, $262,500 to foster youth, $181,000 to participation in the arts, and $275,000 for youth jobs. Grantees are often based in San Francisco, Oakland, Fairfax, Half Moon Bay, Berkeley, San Rafael, Point Reyes, Hayward, Richmond, East Palo Alto, and other Bay Area cities. A list of grantees can be found here.

To apply for an MSF grant, nonprofits use an online grants management portal. Each funding area has its own deadlines, which are listed on the Grantmaking Priorities page.

Today, the foundation is operated by a four-woman staff and a seven-member board of directors. The staff is contracted with Pacific Foundation Services to provide administrative, program, and accounting services for the board. To get in touch, contact the staff at 415-561-6540 or Executive Director Mary Gregory via email at mgregory@pfs-llc.net.

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