RGK Foundation: Grants for Early Childhood Education

OVERVIEW: Founded in 1966, the RGK Foundation originally was an educational and health research funder. Its focus has evolved over the years, and the Austin, Texas-based foundation has provided education, community, and health grants to a variety of nonprofits. As a funder of early childhood development and education, the foundation has provided millions of dollars each year to its multiple grantees.

IP TAKE: One reason RGK has been such an interesting funder in early education is because the majority of its programs — education, community, and health — are inclusive of early education and development. This inclusiveness leaves the door open to a variety of nonprofits working in the field.  This foundation has spread its funds widely rather than concentrate on large grants to a small number of recipients, further improving applicants' chances.

PROFILE:  The RGK Foundation, named for the initials of founders Ronya and George Kozmetsky, has provided grants in what it readily acknowledges as "the broad areas of Education, Community, and Health/Medicine." Of great benefit to ECE grantseekers, every one of these program areas has left the door open for a variety of early childhood causes. For example, funding priorities for RGK's community program has included "children and family services, early childhood development, and parenting education." And its two other program areas — education and health — also have had a bent toward early childhood grants. In fact, the terms early education and development seem to work their way into a lot of different grants.  

But after five decades on the philanthropy scene, the foundation announced that it would wind down operations and distribute assets equally between two new foundations, the Kozmetsky Family Foundation and the Reissa Foundation. During its life cycle, the foundation awarded over 3,500 grants totaling more than $133 million to U.S. nonprofits. The final capstone grant of the RGK Foundation was a $750,000 grant to the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. This grant went towards a fellowship to strengthen the next generation of philanthropic leaders. 

In the past, RGK's community and education programs were important ones for early childhood funders. Both covered a lot of ground in early education and overall well-being for children, especially for direct service providers and nonprofits. In terms of its education program, several ECE-related grants supported organizations working on early literacy, access to quality Pre-K, and STEM.  With respect to RGK's community programs (as well as at least one recent education grant), the foundation provided support to several organizations working to prevent child abuse and/or support domestic abuse or trauma victims.  Health grants that could include early childhood beneficiaries, meanwhile, focused on areas such as exercise and access to healthy foods and quality health care.  A full listing of recent grant recipients dating back more than a decade is available here.

Although RGK did not have a stated geographic focus for its giving (so long as the project is in the U.S.), many grantees were in the Southwest, particularly Texas and Southern California. But the foundation does provide plenty of grants to organizations outside those two areas. The foundation no longer accepts applications.

Going forward, both branches of the family – the Scotts and the Kozmetskys – have indicated that they will continue to be actively engaged in their separate foundations. According to a foundation announcement, the Kozmetsky Family Foundation is based in Texas and led by Sarah K. Miller, and the Reissa Foundation is based in California and led by Jordan Scott.

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