OVERVIEW: The Carnegie Corporation of New York has a storied history in education funding, and it's one of the most influential K-12 funders in the United States. Currently, the foundation's education program provides major grant funding for a variety of organizations, but its K-12 education focus is on the key areas of design for schools and systems, human resources and leadership, and standards and assessments. Grantseekers are likely find the vast majority of K-12 grants under its Education program. Programs that have the potential for replication or expansion are of particular interest.
IP TAKE: Competition for Carnegie grants is fierce, with only the most innovative and forward-thinking projects receiving funding. To raise your project's profile, it's essential to be effective in conveying uniqueness and scope of impact.
PROFILE: Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 in order to "promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," the Carnegie Corporation is distinguished as "America's oldest grant making foundation." Today, Carnegie's programs focus on the key issues of "international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy." While the corporation does notably have a program specifically for "Higher Education and Research in Africa," it is Carnegie's Education program that will be of primary interest to U.S.-based K-12 grantseekers.
Carnegie's Education program (formerly called Urban and Higher education, and still using a URL with that name on the foundation’s web site) is dedicated to providing “More and better opportunities for American students in K-12 to learn the skills they need to compete in a global economy.”
There are three focus areas that fall under this umbrella, all of which include STEM as a key component: improving the clarity and expectations of standards and assessments; improvements in faculty "recruitment, training, evaluation, and leadership development"; and reconceptualizing "how schools use teaching, scheduling, technology, and funding to create new systems for success," with an eye toward differentiation and "personalized instruction."
Carnegie grantees are often ahead of the pack in these areas. Carnegie was out front in its funding of Common Core-related projects (an area it continues to support), and recent grants have supported innovative efforts in teacher and principal leadership training, STEM programs for both students and teachers, differentiated learning, improving the performance of underprepared high school students, increasing parental engagement, research on school finance, charter networks, and trainings in student self-advocacy, just to name a few.
Carnegie is also a prominent supporter of 100Kin10, a collaborative effort (profiled here in more detail) that "unites the nation’s top academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government agencies to train and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers" by the year 2021.
Carnegie's education investments are substantial: Most grants have fallen in the $100,000 to $500,000 range, with a few $50,000 awards and others reaching upwards of $3 million or higher. For a more complete picture of Carnegie's past funding, its comprehensive grants database is fully searchable and includes all awards dating back to 2004. At the same time, it's important to note that the foundation is currently reviewing its K-12 giving, so fundraisers should review the site periodically to ensure they are up-to-date on Carnegie's priorities and strategy.
Carnegie certainly isn't the right funder for all schools and education nonprofits. It does not fund local, after school, or Pre-K programs, and it has historically supported a large number of established organizations and universities. Many of its grantees are longtime partners, and the organization notes on its website that it "does not seek, and rarely fund[s], unsolicited grant applications." As such, it can be difficult—but certainly not impossible—for small and midsize nonprofits to gain the foundation's attention.
On the bright side, the foundation does feature an open application process, accepting letters of inquiry throughout the year.
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