Sherman Fairchild Foundation: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: Founded in the 1950s, the Sherman Fairchild Foundation has flown under the radar in its higher education philanthropy. Smaller, private liberal arts colleges as well as elite East Coast and New England colleges and universities have received a lot of attention, but funding has also gone to smaller organizations and has certainly not been exclusive in geographic scope.

IP TAKE: Although the Fairchild Foundation gives major funding to higher education each year, it’s unclear exactly what its priorities are, since the foundation doesn’t have a web presence and generally keeps a low profile.

PROFILE: The Sherman Fairchild Foundation has developed a substantial higher education program funding program that traditionally has given big to private, liberal arts colleges. In the last decade, the Foundation Center reports that grants have ranged from $5,000 all the way up to $5 million.

Traditionally, schools on the East Coast and New England have received grants at a higher volume, including Clark University in Massachusetts, which is a private liberal arts and research college. Other grantees have included Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire, and Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. In a more recent example, Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, N.Y., received a Fairchild Foundation grant to develop a media innovation lab program, plus accompanying curriculum.

But schools outside of the Northeast have also received grants. For instance, schools in the Midwest, including Kalamazoo College in Michigan, Lawrence University in Wisconsin and St. Louis University have received funding, as have colleges in western states - especially in California, including longtime grantee the California Institute of Technology.

Although smaller, private liberal arts colleges receive a lot of attention, a significant portion of funding has gone to elite colleges and universities, including a few Ivy League colleges. Grants to these universities have been used for a variety of projects and programs, including general funding support, special science or arts programs, technology purchases, and fundraising campaigns. At the same time, smaller organizations, including community colleges, have also sometimes received lower-level funding.

Beyond its support for education, the foundation has also given funding to support military veterans, the arts, and social welfare organizations like the Salvation Army and the YMCA. Yet it bears repeating that other than listing the type of organization and a few details about the grant, the foundation gives minimal information about its funding priorities. Also, many of their awards go to longtime grantees like Dennison College, where Sherman Fairchild himself once served as president. So it may be a challenge for first-time grantseekers to garner attention.

All that said, without grantmaking guidelines or a website, it’s difficult to judge just exactly what Fairchild looks for in grantees. Your best bet might be simply to reach out to the foundation’s staff or to past grant recipients.


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    Sherman Fairchild Foundation
    5454 Wisconsin Avenue #1205
    Chevy Chase, MD 20815
    Telephone: (301) 913-5990