Surdna Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: The Surdna Foundation’s mission is fostering sustainable communities with a strategy that is both community-based and geared toward social justice. Its three main programs are Sustainable Environments, Strong Local Economies and Thriving Cultures. Surdna strongly emphasizes arts and cultural projects.

IP TAKE: K-12 grantseekers should focus their energies on Teens' Artistic and Cultural Advancement, a sub-program of Surdna’s Thriving Cultures program. TACA combines cultural identity, art and building life skills to prepare teens both academically and professionally, generally also connecting those themes to social justice concerns.

PROFILE: Founded in 1917 by John Andrus, a successful medicine manufacturer and distributor, the Surdna foundation is still largely managed by his descendants. Its mission today is to foster “sustainable communities in the United States,” which it defines as being “guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.” Under that umbrella, the foundation’s three main programs are called Sustainable Environments, Strong Local Economies and Thriving Cultures.

For K-12 grantseekers, the Thriving Cultures program is the place to start. Teens' Artistic and Cultural Advancement, one of TC’s subprograms, is directed at “artistic training programs that help teens explore their cultural identity and equip them with the life-enhancing skills they need to achieve their educational and career goals.” Cultural identity in this context is broadly defined, as recently funded projects have focused on issues including sexual orientation as well as racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic background. In a recent year, grants awarded in this area ranged in size from $50,000 to just under $250,000.

Reviewing the foundation’s past grants offers a clearer idea of what Surdna funds. However, keep in mind that grants from before 2013 were awarded prior to the revision of the foundation’s mission and funding guidelines, so grants from 2013 on are likely to be the most useful.

If you are considering seeking funds, start by reviewing the foundation’s guidelines before submitting a letter of inquiry (accepted year-round). If you still have questions after reviewing the guidelines, the foundation suggests emailing grants@surdna.org or contacting the grants manager.

When sending in your LOI, keep in mind that the foundation especially prefers to see that your program will creatively “use arts and culture to make communities more just and sustainable,” will serve communities of color and those of low income, and has “a capacity and willingness to share best practices and knowledge with their colleagues and others in the field.” Grantseekers should also be aware that while the foundation does support scholarship programs, it does not endow such programs (or offer endowments of any kind), nor does it award grants for academic fellowships.

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