OVERVIEW: The Brinson Foundation prioritizes giving to organizations that are based in or whose work emphasizes Chicago. Higher education grantmaking supports education programs and general funding, as well as science research program, which is national in scope. Its science research program funds narrow initiatives in astronomy, cosmology, biology, geophysics and medicine.
IP TAKE: Brinson only supports higher education in its niche focus areas in scientific research.Restrictions also exist on submitting unsolicited proposals or inquiries. The foundation sometimes funds universities beyond Chicago through its education funding stream.
PROFILE: For about 30 years, Gary Brinson worked in investments and money management, establishing a reputation as one of the best and most influential in the business. In 2001, the Ayn Rand-inspired libertarian started the Brinson Foundation, a Chicago-based foundation that does a sizeable portion of its grantmaking in the Chicago metropolitan area. Brinson has not signed the Giving Pledge, but in a Founder’s Statement, he has said he is limiting the amount he leaves to his heirs because he believes excessive inheritance will hurt their initiative and self-esteem. Brinson’s two main program areas are Education and Scientific Research.
Brinson conducts higher education grantmaking through its Education program, intended to help students “reach their full potential both as individuals and as contributing citizens of a greater community.” These programs primarily serve the Chicagoland area. The grants fall into seven focus areas: middle and high school financial literacy programs, health care career development, high school and college success, liberty and free enterprise, K-12 literacy, STEM education, and student health programs.
Brinson also makes grants to higher education through its Scientific Research program, available to institutions across the United States. The foundation divides the grants into two focus areas: physical science—which includes astrophysics, cosmology, evolutionary developmental biology, and geophysics—and medical research. Medical research grants “fund programs that seek to develop new, innovative clinical interventions for chronic conditions as well as highly treatable conditions which negatively impact the productivity of large segments of the population” and prioritize “areas that improve the quality of life as distinct from solely extending life.” Brinson does not accept letters of inquiry for medical research grants.
Grants typically range from $25,000 to $50,000. Visit Brinson’s Grants page for information on recent grants.
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