OVERVIEW: This low-key, low-infrastructure foundation gives entirely to research projects in the life sciences. Starting as a private foundation of a married couple, it is in part entrusted to three brothers and one brother's son, and its philanthropy is controlled by a set of New York-based advisers.
IP TAKE: Mathers gives to a lot of brain science and gene research projects at universities all over the map, with grants maxing out at just under $1 million per award. Its more specific grantmaking priorities can be hard to pin down, but the foundation does accept unsolicited inquiries.
PROFILE: Harold and Leila Mathers mostly kept to themselves as retirees in Santa Barbara, making understated gifts here and there to local causes. But after Mrs. Mathers passed in the 1980s, it became clear that she was in possession of a sizable fortune from a family inheritance related to the General Foods Corporation.
Carrying on the couple's legacy of philanthropy is the Mathers Charitable Foundation, which “is primarily interested in supporting fundamental basic research in the life sciences,” with funding available for “specific projects from established researchers at top universities and independent research institutions within the United States.”
Mathers makes sizable grants to these projects with a similar lack of fanfare. Grant amounts can range anywhere from $10,000 to $600,000, though most fall in the $100,000 to $400,000 range.
Mathers gives to a lot of the usual suspects in life sciences research. Past grantees include the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, various University of California campuses, Columbia, Yale, the Whitehead Institute, and Harvard.
But the list of awarded institutions is fairly diverse, including the University of Utah, University of Nevada, University of Iowa, and some other schools in the Northeast such as SUNY, Tufts, and UMASS, as well as nonprofits like the Scripps Research Institute.
As for the actual projects Mathers funds, the foundation doesn't go out of its way to explain threads of support or even much detail on each project supported. But among its recent grantees, support has gone to areas including brain science, cancer research, cellular biology, behavior research, and genetic research, just to name a few. There aren’t a lot of specifics, but more information is available at the foundation's lists of current projects and its funding history.
Mathers invites general inquiries either by good old-fashioned mail, email (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org), or phone at 914-242-0465. More detailed inquiries should be sent by mail along with additional documentation as per the foundation’s guidelines, after which you may be invited to submit a full application.
- Howard Chester, Executive Director
- Beverly Cheikin, Associate Executive Director
- Zach Handelman, Associate