Leon Lowenstein Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW:  In New York City and beyond, the Leon Lowenstein Foundation has supported schools and education nonprofits that serve elementary and secondary students. The majority of these groups support public education as well. Each year, the foundation awards millions of dollars in funding, mostly in the form of smaller and mid-sized grants of $10,000 to $100,000. Although New-York-City-based schools and education nonprofits receive a large share of Lowenstein's funding, organizations across the country have also received significant support from the foundation. 

IP TAKE: Lowenstein is a consistent K-12 funder, but keeps a pretty low profile. As such, it may be difficult for first-time grantseekers to earn funding.

PROFILE: The Leon Lowenstein Foundation was founded in the early 1940's. The Foundation Center reports that founder Leon Lowenstein "was the president and chairman of M. Lowenstein Corp., a major textile corporation," and that he was the foundation's chairman until his passing in 1976. The center further notes that today, Lowenstein "supports a wide range of projects nationwide" in areas such as "education, health and the environment with a particular interest in innovative, scale-able, and transformative projects and organizations."

Lowenstein's specific K-12 focus is hard to determine, since it doesn't have a website or make its guidelines available online. That said, some of the most frequent recipients in recent years have been elementary and secondary public schools based in New York, with a smaller number of grants going to organizations outside the metro area. 

A look at the foundation's recent K-12 grantmaking offers some insight into the foundation's funding priorities. For instance, Lowenstein gave a $100,000 grant to Edible Schoolyard Brooklyn, a fairly new and novel venture. Another creative venture that Lowenstein has supported is the Fund for Schools, which seeks to improve New York's public schools through "public-private partnerships" as well as gaining "funding for critical system-wide education initiatives" and promoting "broad public engagement" with schools and students.

Lowenstein has given to some traditional K-12 sources, including charter networks and stand-alone schools. The KIPP charter network has received funding from the foundation, as have stand-alone charters such as Greenwich Academy and Princeton Charter School. 

Beyond giving to organizations exclusively tied to K-12 education, the foundation has also thrown its support behind organizations whose work benefits K-12-age children in other ways.  For example, Lowenstein recently gave modest funding to Hour Children, a nonprofit whose mission is to help "incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children successfully rejoin the community, reunify with their families, and build healthy, independent and secure lives." That same year, it gave $275,000 to Common Sense Media, which works to help parents and their children identify age-appropriate books, movies, and TV shows; provide K-12 educational materials to teachers; and promote education policies including those directed at early education, poverty reduction, and technology accessibility.

The foundation has also supported a number of universities over the years, including Fordham, Stanford, Sarah Lawrence, and Harvard, though the specific uses to which its funding was put was not stated in its tax filings.

As mentioned above, without grant guidelines, it’s hard to pin down exactly what Lowenstein is looking for, so grantseekers might do well to reach out to program staff. That said, Lowenstein's funding areas have been diverse, and it is definitely worth a shot.

PEOPLE:

  • Alice Eaton, Executive Director
  • Thomas Bendheim, Director

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