Surdna Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Surdna Foundation invests in the environment, local economies, and culture. There is not a program dedicated exclusively to higher education, but these focus areas connect to universities by supporting research, a wide range of programs in the arts, and efforts to increase the number of local minority, immigrant, or women-owned businesses.

IP TAKE: Many Surdna grants focus on advancing social justice, offering tangible benefits to underserved communities, and sharing of best practices, so applicants should consider those goals when crafting your funding request. 

PROFILE: Founded in 1917 by John Andrus, a successful medicine manufacturer and distributor, the Surdna foundation is still largely managed by his descendants. The foundation seeks to foster “sustainable communities in the United States,” which it defines as being “guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.” The foundation does not have a dedicated higher education program. Instead, it conducts higher education related grantmaking across its three program areas: Sustainable Environments, Inclusive Economies, and Thriving Cultures.

The goal of Surdna's Sustainable Environments program is "to overhaul our country’s outdated and crumbling infrastructure with a new approach that will foster healthier, sustainable, and just communities." It is particularly concerned with Environmental and Climate Justice, and Land Use Through Community Power. While it has no regional focus, it does emphasize improvements to cities and their surrounding suburbs.

Surdna's Inclusive Economies program targets its efforts at improving those economies by enabling "upward economic mobility among communities that have experienced historical economic barriers, including low-income people, communities of color, women, and immigrants." The two sub-programs in this area are Business Start-up and Growth and Equitable Economic Development.

Finally, the Thriving Cultures program seeks to “foster the conditions in which artists, culture-bearers, designers, and media-makers of color can maximize their potential as leaders, agents of social change, and designers of just systems and communities.” Past grantees include the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Arizona State University Foundation.

Grants range from $25,000 to $300,000. Grantseekers may review Surdna’s past grants, but keep in mind that grants from before 2013 were awarded prior to the revision of the foundation’s mission and funding guidelines.

Interested grantseekers must start by submitting a Letter of Inquiry, accepted year-round. Full applications are accepted by invitation only, following a LOI.

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