Tosa Foundation: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: John and Tashia Morgridge, the philanthropists behind the Tosa Foundation, have always kept a low profile as funders. But since signing the Giving Pledge, they've lost some of their anonymity. These days, education continues to drive a substantial portion of the foundation's grant giving. The focus has been on K-12 schools, though higher education funding has been awarded to a lesser extent.

IP TAKE: Tosa has no website and does not publish grant guidelines, but it appears that this funder's (generally invitation-only) giving is focused mainly on a small number of longtime partners, mostly in California (especially the Bay Area), Wisconsin, and Massachusetts. 

PROFILE: It’s a challenge to get inside the Tosa Foundation's grant-giving. Yes, you can check out Form 990's to get an idea of who its past grantees are, and the Foundation Center has identified key giving areas as encompassing animal welfare, arts and culture, education, the environment, human services, international development, international relations, and youth organizing. But that route offers only a small glimpse of the organization. And in many ways, that's how John and Tashia Morgridge have preferred to work as philanthropists — behind a certain amount of anonymity.

One thing we can surmise is that the Morgridges are fairly hands-on philanthropists. They still have active roles in the foundation, and they've developed relationships with longtime partners. For instance, the foundation has provided support for Reading Recovery in East Palo Alto for decades. "Philanthropy is not a short-term thing," Tashia said. "You have to hang in there for the long term."

With that in mind, here are a few pointers about the Tosa Foundation's strategy. First, the majority of grants go to organizations in California — particularly the San Francisco Bay Area — and in Wisconsin and Massachusetts. In an interview with Bridgespan Group, the founders talked about giving in Wisconsin (where they were both born and raised) and near their home in Silicon Valley, because they know the issues well in these places.

Tashia Morgridge was a longtime educator, and education is certainly a major area of focus for the foundation. K-12 education historically has been the focus, but teacher training programs have also received quite a bit of attention from the foundation. This area may be one way that colleges, universities, and higher ed grantseekers can work their way into Tosa funding.

The Morgridges have also given significant funds to higher ed institutions closer to home. The alma mater of the Morgridges, the University of Wisconsin, has been a major longtime grantee of the foundation. Stanford University, where John Morgridge earned his MBA, is another major higher education grantee.

It's difficult to tell exactly what might happen with TOSA, and like many lower-profile givers, their foundation has no web site or clear route to apply for funding. But the founders are sticking to their Giving Pledge.  Their daughter-in-law, Carrie Morgridge, heads a separate foundation, the Morgridge Family Foundation, which also has a major focus on education philanthropy (though again, the focus is primarily on K-12 and the funding is by invitation only).


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    TOSA Foundation
    c/o Tashia Morgridge
    3130 Alpine Road, PMB 705
    Portola Valley, CA 94028