S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: This San Francisco-based funder’s grantmaking prioritizes California, the environment, and STEM education.

IP TAKE: Bechtel announced it “will invest all of its assets by 2020,” and while grantmaking has been on the rise, it has stopped taking uninvited proposals or inquiries.

PROFILE: The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation was created by Stephen Bechtel Jr, head of the Bechtel Corporation, the largest construction and engineering firm in the country. Bechtel is one of a number of prominent Bay Area foundations that give a great deal of support for STEM education and the environment. The foundation seeks to invest “in a vibrant, sustainable future through development of young people and stewardship of natural resources.” Bechtel plans to spend down its entire assets by 2020.

The foundation funds conservation work through its environment program, which "seeks to advance the transition to more sustainable and effective approaches to water and land management by investing in grantees that develop and scale innovative models; expand the knowledge base; ground resource management in best practice; and support sound policies." Within this program exist two other subprograms, Water and Land. Its water program centers on knowledge building and information systems, as well as promoting integrated solutions. In contrast, its land program advances "durable and protected lands." 

Grants have ranged widely from a few thousand to millions of dollars. Past grantees include the Pisces Foundation and WestEd, among many others. Grantseekers may explore its grantee list

As a result of its commitment to spend down by 2020, Bechtel no longer accepts uninvited proposals and LOIs. President and daughter of Bechtel, Lauren Dachs, indicated the foundation will be working to position its grantees for long-term financial stability and exploring funder collaboratives. She also said that the foundation will be awarding “modest grants to build knowledge and perspective on foundation exits and spend-downs” for other organizations who find themselves in similar positions in the future.

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