Carson Family Charitable Trust: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: The Carson Family Charitable Trust focuses its grantmaking on New York City, supporting local charter schools and advocacy groups in addition to a wide range of other K-12 organizations. Most of the foundation’s K-12 support has gone to organizations based in New York City. Charter schools and networks have received significant attention from the foundation and from individual members of the Carson family.

IP TAKE: While the foundation has been around for decades, it doesn't have much of a web presence or a clear way for grantseekers to request support. Russell and Judy Carson's daughter, Cecily, who serves as president of the foundation, appears to be the most accessible contact.

PROFILE: The Carson Family Charitable Trust is the charitable vehicle of businessman Russell Carson, his wife Judy, and their children. In a recent year, the foundation held more than $57 million in assets and gave away nearly $22 million in grants, most of which were in the $100,000-$200,000 range. It’s important to state at the outset, however, that most of the foundation’s philanthropy takes place in New York City.

A significant area of grantmaking for the Carson Trust is K-12 education. As we noted in this IP article, much (though by no means all) of that support has gone to charter schools and networks. Carson has said that he believes in the charter school model - particularly one that, as reported in a recent article, includes “discipline, school uniforms and the active involvement of parents.”

Quite a number of New York City charter schools and school advocacy outfits have also received support. In a recent year, nearly $1 million went to KIPP NYC, a network of free, open-enrollment, public charter schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem, and Washington Heights. Recent support has also gone to Friends of Brooklyn Charter School, and Success Charters Network in New York. Achievement First, a network of public charter schools in New York and other states, Uncommon Schools, and the Boston-based Match School Foundation charter have also received support.

Carson has also supported targeted efforts at increasing education time and giving students practical experience for life outside the classroom. In terms of the former, the foundation as supported expanded learning outfits such as the After School Corporation (now called ExpandED Schools). In terms of the latter, the foundation has been a key support of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which works "inspire young people from low-income communities to stay in school, to recognize business opportunities and to plan for successful futures" through work such as student retention efforts and financial literacy training.

Carson also has a particular interest in improving inner city Catholic schools. In 1997, Carson cofounded the Endowment for Inner-City Education, now known as the Partnership for Inner-City Education, a school management organization for a network of Catholic elementary schools in Harlem and the South Bronx.

The foundation also has an interest in developing high-quality teachers. Carson has bankrolled the Relay Graduate School of Education (a New York-based graduate school for teachers), as well as supported outfits such as Teach for America, the National Foundation for Teaching, and Teaching Matters. 

Another component of the family's philanthropy is arts education. For instance, Judy Carson is a founder of “Learning to Look,” a program that teaches art appreciation to inner-city children of the Archdiocese of New York, and Carson has given support for the New York Philharmonic’s “Young People’s Concerts for Schools” program.

The foundation also has interests in higher education, where Russell and Cecily Carson's alma mater, Dartmouth (as well as other colleges and universities where the Carsons have connections), has been supported. Sums have also gone to health, anti-poverty efforts, and arts and culture. 

Unfortunately, the Carson Family Charitable Trust doesn't have a website, or list guidelines for grantseekers to get in touch. Making matters even less clear, the foundation’s recent tax filings listed all grants as going to unrestricted general support.

Cecily Carson, president of the foundation, is probably the most accessible member of the foundation. She is actively involved in several areas of New York City education philanthropy, particularly charter-related organizations and networks. She serves, for example, on the board of the New York City Charter School Center, and is a trustee of the charter network Uncommon Schools as well as the NYC-based Excellence Girls and Excellence Boys charter schools, which are part of the Uncommon Schools network. Her LinkedIn profile can be accessed below.


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The Carson Family Charitable Trust
114 W. 47th Street
New York, NY 10036