S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation grants are awarded to California programs working in education, with an emphasis on STEM, and the environment. A lot of recent awards went to education-related programs, followed by water and land management.

FUNDING AREAS: Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, education policy and advocacy, character development, water management, land management.

IP TAKE: This party is coming an end by 2020, with the foundation announcing it is spending down funds

PROFILE: Stephen D. Bechtel has always loved science, the outdoors, and California. He's the third generation in the family's global construction and engineering business, and you could say that philanthropy runs in the bloodline. After setting up the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation in 2005, he also established individual foundations for each of the children and grandchildren in his large family to keep the Bechtel tradition of giving alive for generations to come.

Grantmaking is limited to California organizations, and Bechtel (not to be confused with the separate entity Bechtel Group Foundation) is dedicated to two charitable focus areas, with some subfocuses. The education program has one priority of strengthening teaching in science, math, technology, and engineering to train students for a competitive workforce. The character subfocus deals mostly with youth programs such as the Girl Scouts, and mentoring programs. The policy and advocacy subfocus is more about implementing systemic changes, including new standards like Next Generation Science Standards.

On the environment side, Bechtel looks for proposals that promise to improve management, stewardship and conservation of water and land in California through research, developing and scaling up model programs, supporting best practices, and sound policies. Water grants tend to support scientifically backed decision-making, and in particular partnerships among stakeholders. Related to land management, priorities are split between bolstering state protection systems like the state parks, and encouraging private land owners to be better stewards. 

The S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation works alongside the Stephen Bechtel Fund to conduct grantmaking. In a recent year, the foundation awarded $120 million for program investments and has been increasing its giving. Projected grantmaking for the current year is $160 million.

Bechtel has targeted the youngest kids in its grantmaking, teaming up with Sesame Street to promote STEM education though interactive games, videos, and hands-on activities. The foundation has also joined forces with other area philanthropies to implement common core state standards for math in the K-8 demographic.

One important thing to note about Bechtel is that the foundation has announced that it will invest all its assets by 2020, in a spend down strategy committed to “identifying lasting solutions for education and the environment sooner, rather than later." So while grantmaking has been on a steady climb in recent years, opportunities will be winding down, and it's tough these days to get on board. The foundation is no longer accepting unsolicited letters of inquiry, discouraging LOIs and only accepting and reviewing proposals on an invite-only basis.  

General questions can, however, go to the foundation at 415-284-8675 or information@sdbjrfoundation.org.

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