Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: This funder began reorganizing in March 2016. Assets were split to allow the next generation to pursude their funding interests. Half of the Gerbode funds are creating three separate private foundations.

FUNDING AREAS: Environment and conservation, population and reproductive rights, civil rights, civic engagement, and the arts

IP TAKE: Although Gerbode’s local arts program gets the most public attention, this funder has wide interests.

PROFILE: Although you may not hear about the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation on a regular basis, this San Francisco-based funder has been around since 1961. The foundation was established by Martha Alexander Gerbode, a descendant of the Alexander missionary family, who helped create one of the biggest sugar companies in Hawaii, Alexander & Baldwin. Martha named the foundation after her son, who was killed in an automobile accident as a teenager.

Martha was a bold and passionate activist who supported new (and sometimes unpopular) ideas, and her foundation carries on that same tradition today. In a 1995 oral history transcript produced by the University of California Berkeley, she was described by those close to her as a grassroots politician, a true humanitarian, an active volunteer, and an involved citizen.

Almost all Gerbode grantmaking takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area and Hawaii. The primary geographical focus has been on Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties. The most common types of programs funded fall within these categories: arts and culture, the environment, death and dying, population, reproductive rights, diversity, citizen participation, and strengthening philanthropy and the non-profit world. The foundation has funded programs related to death and dying and reproductive rights on a national and global scale as well. Public policy and advocacy efforts have been at the heart of Gerbode grantmaking.

What's interesting about this funder is an announcement that came in 2016 about restructuring the foundation so that half the assets stay here and the other half go towards creating threee individual private foundations to allow the next generation to pursue their own interests. Accordingly, 2016 has been a year of pause as the new structure plays out.

At the end of a previous year, the Gerbode Foundation reported $65,599,864 million in assets and paid out $2,681,786 million grants. It has paid out over $89 in grants over the years. Total assets have topped $62.9 million.

In 1987, the foundation established a special grantmaking program specifically for San Francisco Bay Area artists. These grants are targeted at artists who are at critical junctures in their careers and programs that help nonprofit organizations premier new works and enrich Bay Area audiences. These award cycles are announced in May each year, with applications due in August and winners announced in January. Recent local arts & culture grantees include AXIS Dance Company, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and the Encore Theatre Foundation. Gerbode also makes a habit of partnering with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to collaborate on arts funding projects.

Past community affairs grantees include the California Voter Foundation and the Bay Area parent Leadership Action Network. Local environmental & conservation grantees include Baykeeper, Outdoor Circle Central Organization, and the Urban Habitat Program. Reproductive rights grants tend to go to national and worldwide organizations, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation and the Global Fund for Women, Inc. Gerbode also sends funds over to other local foundations like the San Francisco Foundation, Pacific Links Foundation, and the Hawaii Community Foundation.

The Board of Directors meets four times each year and letters of inquiry have been accepted on an ongoing basis, of course with the exepction of this transitional time. Here’s a list of what the Gerbode Foundation does NOT fund:

  • Direct services
  • Deficit budgets
  • General operating support
  • Building and equipment funds
  • Fundraising campaigns
  • Private schools
  • Individuals
  • Scholarships
  • Publications
  • Religious purposes

A list of recent grants can be viewed here. Grants range from $1,000 to $100,000, with most grants around $33,000. General inquiries can be directed to the staff at info@gerbode.org or by phone at 415-391-0911.


  • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)