Daniels Fund: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: Well known as a supporter of early childhood education, the Daniels Fund also has a presence in K-12 education funding, especially for charter schools and school choice programs in the four-state region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. By its own accounting, this funder has given more than $85 million in the K-12 arena since 2000. Its programs and funding strategies vary state-to-state, but unsolicited proposals are not accepted for programs that are based in New Mexico or Utah, or that are nationwide in scope. 

IP TAKE: Daniels wants to challenge the education status quo, especially in the Rocky Mountain states. It encourages grantseekers to reach out to its staff, but keep in mind the restrictions mentioned above.

PROFILE: Established by the estate of the late business leader Bill Daniels, the Daniels Fund is a major player in the Rocky Mountains. The foundation controls well over $1 billion in assets, and recently has provided yearly funding of more than $30 million in grants to community nonprofits and more than $10 million in scholarships. The Daniels Fund is one of the most significant funders of early childhood education programs in the western United States (see IP's profile in our Early Childhood Education guide). 

The first thing to know about the Daniels Fund is that grantseekers must almost always have programs operating in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming, and that the programs and openness of the application process vary by state. For example, Daniels has recently keyed in mainly on education in New Mexico, but unsolicited proposals for programs in New Mexico, Utah, or nationwide are not accepted. 

Education and young people play a major role in the fund's giving. In addition to scholarships, the fund's specific giving areas include ECE, K-12 Education Reform, and Youth Deveopment. Beyond education, the fund's grants also support organizations working on areas related to Aging, Alcoholism & Substance Abuse, Amateur Sports, Disabilities, and Homeless & Disadvantaged.

In addition, the fund has a five-year pilot Ethics Initiative high school program that seeks to reach students nationwide through a "principle-based ethics course" with related curricula, teacher training, competitive events, and opportunities for students and schools "to use to engage the business community."

The fund's K-12 Education Reform program's broad goal is to "[i]mprove the quality of the K-12 education system to ensure increased student achievement." Taking inspiration from Bill Daniels' belief that education quality could be improved through "competition and alternative approaches to achieve reform, and offer[ing] families quality educational choices," this program has three main focus areas: Reform/School Choice, Parental Engagement, and Teacher/Leadership Quality.  

As reported by the Foundation Center, Reform and School Choice are aimed at areas such as support for charter schools and tuition vouchers. The Center further reports that Parental Engagement is directed at "parental advocacy for high quality schools and/or school choice," while Teacher and Leadership Quality emphasizes "[i]nnovative teacher/leadership pipelines for charter schools." 

Though not as directly tied to K-12 education, another potential avenue for funding from Daniels is in its Youth Development program. This program "supports youth programs that encourage strong character, personal responsibility, accountability, patriotism, giving back to the community, and an understanding of the free enterprise system," and includes four focus areas: Academic and Supplemental Services, Civic Literacy and Community Engagement, Financial Literacy, and Career and Technical Education. The Daniels Fund's web site reports that as with its K-12 funding, it has given more than $85 million in support of Youth Development since 2000.

To get started, fill out an online inquiry form through the fund's online portal and schedule a call with a staff member. A searchable database of the fund's grants through 2012 is available, and grantseekers can also view a breakdown of the fund's total giving by program.


  • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)