OVERVIEW: The Walter and Elise Haas Fund was established in 1952 by the president and founder of Levi Strauss and Co. and his wife to support arts, education, economic security, and Jewish life in the Bay Area. The size of Haas Fund grants varies greatly. Some grants are as small as $5,000 while others exceed $150,000.
FUNDING AREAS: Arts and culture, economic security, Jewish life, and public education
IP TAKE: The arts are a big deal to the Walter and Elise Haas Fund staff and board. Although arts education gets a significant portion of the funding attention, cultural diversity programs and cultural heritage programs also receive Haas support. If your arts organization is into collaboration and wants to solve social issues, look into the Creative Work Fund and attend an application seminar to learn more about how it all works.
PROFILE: The Walter & Elise Haas Fund was created in 1952 by Walter A. Haas Sr. and his wife Elise as an enduring commitment to the city of San Francisco. The Fund was founded with the mission “to help build a healthy, just, and vibrant society in which people feel connected to and responsible for their community.” There are four primary grantmaking interest areas: the arts, economic security, Jewish life, and education.
For most program areas, grantees must be based in or managing significant activities in San Francisco or Alameda County. Within Alameda County, highest priority is given to projects in Oakland and Berkeley. Applications under the Jewish life program focus can be from the wider Bay Area. Additionally, Creative Work Fund applications can come from any of the the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma counties.
The Haas Fund significant support to the arts. This funding general falls in three categories: arts education, art which builds community, and art projects that foster collaboration. “To support the ‘teaching system’ for the arts from multiple angles, we work with nonprofits that fill gaps in artistic disciplines or cultural practices left by under-resourced school systems, partner with districts and arts organizations that work with teachers of non-arts subjects on ways to integrate the arts into their teaching in meaningful ways, and support afterschool and out-of-school programs with a strong arts component,” Executive Director Pamela David told the Foundation Center. Programs that target low-income students, reflect contemporary art practices, and communicate across cultures with media tend to gain the most Haas support. Recent art grantees include The Asian Art Museum Foundation of San Francisco, ArtPlace@Prescot, and the American Conservatory Theater.
Haas’ economic security interests lie in workforce development, building and protecting assets, and public policy and systems change. Under this umbrella, you’ll find grantees that provide vocational training programs, community college partners, entrepreneurial support, professional development, and advocacy and reform causes. Recent economic security grantees include Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project, Asset Funders Network, and Beyond Emancipation.
Haas education support revolves around public education, with a particular focus on attracting, training, and supporting high quality teachers in urban public schools. Haas grants tend to fund collaborative projects in this area. Along these lines, recent grantees include the following: the Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network, the New Teacher Center, and Aim High for High School.
Haas’ Jewish life grants go towards organizations that promote diversity and build partnerships for social justice. Recent Jewish life grants have gone to Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and Faith in Action Bay Area.
The Fund is also engaged in legacy and mission-related special grantmaking for organizations that had a direct relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Haas. A small percentage of the Fund’s grantmaking is reserved for descendent-initiated grants, end-of-year grants to low-income families, the Jewish Community Federation, and critical-need safety net agencies like shelter programs and domestic violence crisis services. But with just one exception (San Francisco Parks), unsolicited letters of inquiry and proposals are not accepted for these grants.
You can view more recent grants from all funding areas on the funder's website by year, region, and program area.
Historically, many Haas grants have fallen between $25,000 and $125,000. After determining if your organization and programs align with Haas Fund priorities and eligibility requirements, you can contact the Fund with an initial letter of inquiry to get the application process started. You can reach the staff with general questions at 415-398-4474.
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