Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation started a charter school of its own in 2011. It concentrates most of its funding on organizations and networks with a presence in the Kansas City area, but occasionally gives awards outside Missouri as well. K-12 grants are awarded out its Education program.

IP TAKE: This funder sees charter schools as education entrepreneurs, and focuses especially on the charter school that bears its name. While the foundation’s driving focus is on the intersection of education and entrepreneurship, it also funds after-school programs, STEM initiatives, teacher leadership training, education research, and numerous other K-12 areas in both charter and traditional public schools.

PROFILE: The Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City, Missouri, was endowed by Ewing Marion Kauffman, a pharmaceutical executive and former owner of the Kansas City Royals baseball franchise. The foundation describes its mission as working to “help individuals attain economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success,” which it views as intrinsically interconnected.

Although this funder strives for national impact in its activities, the Kauffman Foundation maintains a strong commitment to its home city, and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the area over the last several years.

K-12 grants are awarded out of Kauffman's Education program, which is focused largely on the urban core of Kansas City. Here, the foundation seeks to “promote access to quality public school options in Kansas City by supporting new and expanding schools, as well as school turnaround initiatives,” to “support existing individual schools demonstrating strong academic outcomes, “ to “provide postsecondary completion incentives,” and to “support the recruitment, development, and retention of high-quality teachers and leaders in Kansas City's urban schools.” 

The Kauffman Foundation believes in the potential of charter schools to advance student learning so much that it started one of its own. In 2011, the Ewing Marion Kauffman School opened in Kansas City to serve area students, and it was named the state’s 2015 Charter School of the Year by the Missouri Charter Public School Association. The Kauffman School receives the largest slice of its education funding pie, and in a recent year, the foundation awarded the Kauffman School nearly $6.2 million to support its operations.

Kauffman's other education philanthropy focuses on emphasizing education research and policy, afterschool enrichment, STEM education, promotion of leadership, and supporting new and effective education models.

To that End, Kauffman supports a wide range of goals and organizations. Large, established organizations such as the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), Teach for America (Kansas City chapter), and City Year have also received key support. So have individual schools such as Academie Lafayette, local charter networks such as the Association of Missouri Charter Schools, STEM education groups like the Kansas City STEM Alliance, postsecondary readiness and success organizations like the University of Missouri’s College Advising Corps, and leadership support through groups like the Kansas City chapter of the national program Leading Teachers, which works to foster “effective ‘teacher-leaders’” to support “the region’s education talent pipeline.”

Traditional K-12 public schools have also received Kauffman support, and the foundation has given to initiatives such as after-school programs that supplement student learning and achievement. Recently, two school districts in the Kansas City area received grant funding from the Kauffman Foundation, although at lower levels than those provided to large charter networks. It also provides matching funds to KC-area public school teachers for any funds raised through the site DonorsChoose.org. 

As mentioned above, the foundation’s giving also includes a Research & Policy in Education program. In order to “help create the human capital necessary for an entrepreneurial economy,” Kauffman works through the RPE program to “support and conduct research on the intersection of technology, public policy, and the economics of education,” and to “focus on specific areas of public policy that affect Kauffman's education investments and the national movement toward higher-quality education.”

Many high-profile universities throughout the country have received grants to support research into these areas, as well as varying dimensions of the field of entrepreneurship. The foundation also supports higher ed through scholarships, fellowships, and awards for academic research.

Nevertheless, awards have also gone to groups gathering data and research for K-12 ed, both in Kansas City and beyond. Outside of Missouri, the foundation recently supported the Summit on Improvement in Education held in Stanford, CA by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; Edfuel, a DC-based non-profit that Kauffman supported to help bring high-quality leaders to Kansas City's education sector; the San Francisco-based WestEd for a "series of in-depth focus groups of parents working to collect information about parental access to and usage of education data in different formats" as well as "identification of education entrepreneurs and innovators" as a means to increase "understanding the innovation and entrepreneurial landscape in education"; and New Schools for New Orleans, a charter-focused education reform nonprofit.

The foundation doesn’t have a database of past grants, but its grants list identifies all awards (starting with the most recent and working backwards) and gives a brief overview of the funding project.

In terms of applying for funding, this funder does not require a specific application form, nor does it have a ceiling or a floor on funding limits for projects - it bases funding decisions on the scope of the project itself. 

At the same time, it’s important to closely review the foundation’s website and consider reaching out to program staff before applying, as the foundation states that some funding areas “may not accept unsolicited proposals.” You can also check the site for open grant opportunities


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