Robert Woodruff Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education


[Placed in draft - giving in Georgia only]



OVERVIEW: The Woodruff Foundation operates consistent grantmaking programs throughout the state of Georgia. The foundation's education program — which includes funding for elementary, secondary, and higher education — is consistently one of the top funded. Woodruff does not have a grantmaking program specifically aimed at charter schools.

IP TAKE: Woodruff's K-12 education grantmaking has included many one-time capital grants, and for charter schools in the state, it has consistently supported capital construction projects. Organizations can submit proposals throughout the year, but must be working in the Peach State - and usually in the Atlanta area - in order to qualify for funding.

PROFILE: Founded in 1937 by former Coca-Cola executive Robert Woodruff, the Woodruff Foundation controls more than $2 billion in assets, and each year it awards more than $100 million in grants. With a broad mission “to improve the quality of life in Georgia,” the foundation has six program areas: Health, Education, Environment, Human Services, Arts & Culture, and Community Development.

Within the Education program, Woodruff’s primary and secondary giving is directed at “K-12 education at the state level and within Atlanta Public Schools, with an emphasis on improving standards, teacher quality and persistence to graduation.” Within that context, Woodruff funds projects that offer “systemic improvements to public K-12 education,” “initiatives to educate at-risk children,” “Charter schools in metro Atlanta with broad private support, high academic standards and a track record of success,” “select SACS-accredited independent schools in metro Atlanta with open admissions, respected academic programs, stable enrollments and sound finances,” and “special education schools in [the] metro Atlanta [area].”

There aren't many foundations that lay out funding for capital projects, but Woodruff is an exception to that rule. In fact, many of the foundation's recent K-12 education grants have supported capital construction projects, and capital funding is a stated priority for the organization. This strategy is especially important for charters and independent schools, which often miss out on federal funding for facilities. Woodruff has consistently helped to bridge that gap, with six- and seven-figure grants to support initiatives like new school construction, facilities expansion, and renovations.

In addition to its work on school construction, Woodruff has also recently given big to support STEM teacher recruitment, training, and retention.  

Although the foundation's education program awards tens of millions of dollars each year, elementary and secondary school projects have usually accounted for a smaller share of that funding than higher education, which has generally received the majority of the foundation’s education funding. Previous grants dating back to 2009 can be viewed by year, and include brief synopses of each program as well as specific dollar amounts.

Woodruff has a fairly small program staff, but they seem to be accessible to nonprofits and fundraisers. Organizations can submit proposals throughout the year, but the foundation recommends sending an “informal inquiry” to as the first step in the application process. The board meets two times per year, however, so Woodruff isn't the best funder for projects with short time frames. Application deadlines are February 1 for projects to be reviewed in April, and September 1 for proposals to be reviewed in November.

The Woodruff Foundation notes that only about 1 of every 7 proposals is approved for funding. That said, the foundation also “shares an office and staff with the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, Lettie Pate Evans Foundation and Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation.” As a result, “your request may also be considered by one of these foundations,” and does not require a separate application. Also keep in mind when applying that the foundation prefers proven, established organizations with multiple funding sources and a demonstrable record of success.


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