Louis Calder Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: The Louis Calder Foundation's one and only grantmaking goal is national education reform, and the foundation approaches this goal primarily through charter school funding. The foundation targets schools, both charters and parochial, that have liberal arts curricula that align with its vision. Although its grantmaking focus is national, Calder has tended more often to support schools on the East Coast. 

IP TAKE: Calder doesn't put up big numbers like Dell or the Charter School Growth Fund, but it does award grants to both large organizations and individual charter schools - a relative rarity when it comes to the larger charter school grantmakers.

PROFILE: The Calder Foundation was established by Louis Calder, president of the paper company Perkins-Goodwin Co. Founded in 1951 "for educational, charitable and benevolent uses and purposes," the Calder Foundation has, by its own accounting, paid out more than $240 million in grants over the course of its history. The foundation further states that it currently awards about $6.5 million in grants per year, with an average grant size of $100,000. Its four program areas are Charter and Parochial Schools, Teacher and Leadership Development, Public Policy, and Capital Projects.

The first place to start for charter grantseekers is the Charter and Parochial Schools program, which has had the largest number of grantees by far in recent years. This program is focused on “supporting the efforts of existing high-performing charter management organizations and faith-based schools to expand” as well as “the creation of new schools and by establishing a presence in new regions.”  Awards have gone to individual institutions, including turnaround efforts at struggling schools, as well as large charter organizations such as the KIPP network. Consistent with the funder's interest in school expansion projects, grants have supported both grade-level expansion and school growth.

Calder has a specific approach in mind in terms of the charters it supports, namely, that they offer an age-appropriate, “content-rich, traditional liberal arts curriculum." Calder also actively seeks schools whose academic environment promotes “social values, student outcomes and character development.” Rather than funding out-of-school or afterschool programs, Calder instead prefers schools that are themselves “utilizing an extended day and extended year school model.”

Calder’s other programs are likewise direct and explicit in their focus areas. In terms of Teacher and Leadership Development, Calder supports PD programs that “stress the importance of curriculum and its relationship to standards and allow teachers to master relevant and specialized content, deliver it effectively, and develop management skills within the classroom and leadership positions within the school.”

The Public Policy program, meanwhile, supports “organizations that advocate for education reform through policy research and analysis of current educational issues” as well as “the development of content-rich curriculums emphasizing the liberal arts.”

Lastly, the foundation’s Capital Projects grants go to charters and faith-based schools, helping them to improve their STEM programs through “capital improvements” as well as “renovations to their existing facilities or the necessary real estate acquisitions for expansion” (note that support will not be provided for technology purchases).

Although Calder does not place geographic limitations on its awards, a look at its grant lists (click on the specific program under current strategies), and particularly its grant map, suggests that its support has more often than not gone to organizations on the East Coast. Also note that outside of the Charter and Parochial Schools program, the foundation has usually awarded only 3 or 4 grants per per year to each of its other program areas.

In order to start the process going, Calder accepts letters of inquiry throughout the year via its website. Your LOI should focus on your organization’s vision, goals, academic model, and “start-up or expansion plans.”


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