GE Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: In the realm of K-12 education, the GE Foundation filters its giving through its trademarked Developing Futures in Education program. Through DFE, the foundation - a legally separate entity from the corporation that shares its name - is committed to the measurable betterment of school districts exclusively in the cities of Louisville, Cincinnati, Stamford, Erie, Atlanta, New York City, and Milwaukee.

IP TAKE: Funding through the GE Foundation is a tough nut to crack, and accepts proposals by invitation only. It has high expectations for its grantees, and looks to support projects that allow it to leverage the corporations own expertise, involve a wide range of stakeholders, and can produce concrete successes supported by quantitative, measurable outcomes.

PROFILE: The GE Foundation is dedicated to solving “some of the world’s most difficult problems,” and this includes U.S. K-12 education. The GE Foundation might be the company’s philanthropic arm, but it still approaches the problem with the scientific method—its assessment is rigorous, it relies on measurable outcomes and quantitative feedback, and it expects hard work from everyone involved. The foundation also honors the engineering quotient of its parent company; like engineers, the foundation is hands-on and tackles projects where it can forsee concrete measurable outcomes.

The foundation's Developing Futures in Education program, the sole focus of its K-12 education giving, launched in 2005 and currently focuses on seven urban school districts in which the GE corporation has a significant presence: Louisville, Cincinnati, Stamford, Erie, Atlanta, New York City, and Milwaukee. The focus of the GE Foundation’s presence in these school districts is “to give more students a solid educational foundation and the requisite skills to compete successfully in the global economy." 

Not surprisingly considering GE's industry, the foundation puts significant focus on STEM education (See IP’s GE Foundation: Grants for Science Education). At the same time, the foundation states that it also approaches its commitment to improving these school districts through teacher development and “management capacity improvement.” Lastly, the foundation "regularly convenes business leaders and educators to help share best practices and drive impactful partnerships in education across 32 states" as a complement to its grant making.

G.E.'s financial support has been substantial. To date, the foundation reports that it has invested "more than $225 million and thousands of hours to support student achievement and professional development for teachers." The Programs and Impact portion of its website and an extensive report highlight significant improvements in math and science test scores as well as a lowering of the achievement gap in several of the districts where it operates, which includes independent assessments of their work and state rankings for the school districts they’ve taken under their wing. For a more in-depth look, the foundation also features an interactive map with district-specific details on the Foundation's efforts thus far.

The Developing Futures in Education brochure provides helpful insight into what the foundation expects in its partnerships. Specifically, the foundation stresses four key areas: "a collaborative process of decision-making that engages all internal and external stakeholders," assessment and "rigorous quality control," adaptation based on feedback from and communication with community members, and "a robust management structure" that includes G.E. managers as well as the district superintendent and a number of other district employees. In practical application, that translates to a focus on:

  • constituency engagement
  • professional development opportunities for teachers and leaders
  • the leveraging of the "professional capacity of [G.E.'s] executives and staff" and "management tools" to foster reform, innovation and the ability to "quickly identify and overcome challenges" 
  • a STEM focus that emphasizes "competitive standards and curriculum alignment" as well as effective "assessment and evaluation" through "using good data and precise measurements"

Fundraisers may find it challenging in terms of finding the opportunity to pitch their projects. The foundation offers the opportunity to apply through its own research and by invitation only, and explicitly "does not encourage unsolicited proposals" G.E.'s website provide any information on whom to contact, or how to begin the application process.


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