The Brinson Foundation: Grants for Science Research

OVERVIEW: The Brinson Foundation primarily supports education programs and provides general funding for organizations the board likes. Most grantees are based in Chicago; however, the science research program is national in scope and funds narrow initiatives within cosmology, biology, and geophysics.

IP TAKE: Brinson prioritizes funding for education and science research. The number of grantees is limited. Inquiries are reviewed throughout the year, but unsolicited proposals are not accepted.

PROFILE: The Brinson Foundation was founded in Chicago in 2001 by Gary Brinson. The foundation seeks to focus on “encouraging personal initiative, advancing individual freedoms & liberties and positively contributing to society in the areas of education and scientific research.” It prioritizes education and scientific research funding and does most of its grantmaking in the Chicago area. The board also has a set of “endorsement grants,” comprising core support for organizations selected by directors.

Brinson allocates about half of its grantmaking to education in order to expand financial literacy, health care career development, high school/college/career success, liberty/citizenship/free enterprise, literacy, STEM for “pre-school through graduate school students or professional development for teachers” and promotion of STEM careers, and student health.

The foundation’s science research funding is subdivided into two focus areas: Physical Sciences and Medical Research. Funding for the physical sciences includes grantmaking in astrophysics, cosmology, evolutionary developmental biology, and geophysics. Medical research funding focuses on “areas that improve the quality of life as distinct from solely extending life.” These grants are made mostly at the request of directors, and the program does not accept inquiry forms from grantseekers. A list of past grantees can be found here.

Grant amounts typically range from $25,000 to $100,000 and average around $50,000. Giving is metered out carefully and the foundation has a “no new net grants” policy by which “new grants will be made only as existing grants are transitioned from our portfolio and our financial resources permit.” However, the foundation undergoes an occasional review process to make sure grants align well with the directors’ priorities; it continues to refine those priorities, so applicants should check the site often.

While the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, there is an online inquiry form to determine if a group qualifies for consideration. Inquiries are accepted year-round, but check the calendar to see the schedule for awards. Brinson’s staff may be contacted at or by phone at (312) 799-4500 with general inquiries.


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