Charles Stewart Mott Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Named for Charles Stewart Mott, one of the founders of General Motors, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation prioritizes education, the environment, civil society, and projects targeted specifically at the Flint, Michigan area.

IP TAKE: The foundation facilitates higher education grantmaking through its Success Beyond High School subprogram of Mott’s education focus. However, given its broad grantmaking, applicants may secure higher education through a number of Mott’s programs.  Foundation grants support organizations in the United States for all funding areas. In contrast, the foundation conducts international higher education grantmaking through its Civil Society and Environment programs.

PROFILE: The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is named for one of the original founders of General Motors. The foundation, established by Mott in 1926, supports projects that work towards a vision of society “where each individual’s quality of life is connected to the well-being of the community, both locally and globally.” Put another way, Mott “seeks to strengthen, in people and their organizations, what Mr. Mott called ‘the capacity for accomplishment.’” In a recent year, the foundation reported awarding 400 grants totaling close to $120 million. The foundation pursues this objective through programs in strengthening civil society in the U.S. and abroad, education (especially for “low- and moderate-income families”) at the primary, secondary, and postsecondary levels, protection of the environment through policy work and research, support for Flint, Michigan, and an additional category for “exploratory and special projects.”

Universities and research institutions secure Mott grants not through its dedicated education program , which emphasizes college readiness, but through its Environment program. Its subprogram, The Freshwater Challenge, works to “secure sustainable levels of clean water for people and the environment, particularly in the Great Lakes basin.” Transforming Development Finance aims to “shape international investment policies for energy and infrastructure projects in ways that protect people and the environment in developing nations.” Climate Change Solutions works to “increase the use of renewable energy in developing countries, where more than 1 billion people lack access to electricity.” The Environment area also has a division for Special Initiatives. Mott’s environmental grants predominately support university research on climate change, clean energy finance and policy, and fresh water conservation.

Universities also occasionally earn grants through Mott’s Civil Society area, which works to “foster engaged, empowered and equitable communities throughout the world.” Strengthening Civic Spaces works to “promote, protect and reinvigorate the space for civic engagement.” Enhancing Community Philanthropy supports “the development of community foundations that foster just, equitable and sustainable societies.” Increasing Access to Justice works toward “ensuring all people have equal access to remedies for their legal problems.”

Finally, Mott also focuses on issues related to the Flint, MI, Area. Opportunities for higher education grantseekers are limited, but institutions like Michigan State and the University of Michigan received grants in a recent year for projects in Revitalizing the Education Continuum and Meeting Evolving Community Needs.

Grants range from $100,000 to $1 million. The foundation offers a searchable Grants Database with information on grants dating as far back as 1977.

Interested grantseekers should start by submitting an online letter of inquiry. Note that in addition to its other priorities, the foundation “encourages its grantees to seek matching gifts as a way to diversify the grantee organization's funding sources.”

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