OVERVIEW: The MacArthur Foundation funds work that addresses justice, peace, and the environment, while many research grants involve social and environmental sciences. It does not have a program specific to STEM education, but has sometimes supported STEM research area as part of its other programs.
IP TAKE: MacArthur recently made major changes to its grantmaking priorities. New and returning grantseekers should start by figuring out if their higher education program's interests overlap with MacArthur's, then pitch a proposal that connects the two.
PROFILE: With assets of over $6 billion, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is an impossible-to-ignore funder in the world of philanthropy. The foundation seeks to “[build] a more just, verdant, and peaceful world” by working “to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.”
It’s important to note that MacArthur has undergone a major restructuring. Most of its prior programs have either been terminated or are in the process of being wound down over the next few years. Instead, the foundation now backs “Big Bets”: Climate Solutions, Impact Investments, Nuclear Challenges, Nigeria, and Criminal Justice (directed largely at reducing what the foundation views as over-incarceration in the U.S.), as well as a handful of legacy programs (such as the MacArthur Fellowship, aka the “Genius Grant”).
MacArthur's Climate Solutions program seeks to "prevent climate change by curbing emissions and supporting global leadership on climate solutions." Past grants supported policy efforts rather than science research, but the program’s objectives and strategy leave the door open for science research as one element of its approach.
Another area of potential interest to STEM higher education grantseekers is MacArthur’s stated commitment to addressing “nuclear risk.” The foundation's Nuclear Challenges program works to reduce "nuclear threats by decreasing the availability and use of weapons-useable material."
Grants from the MacArthur Foundation are often substantial, in the hundreds of thousands or more, and can be searched in the foundation’s grants database.
If your proposal is in line with MacArthur’s initiatives, the first step is to review the foundation’s Guidelines & Funding Cycles page to determine if your program area is currently issuing calls for proposals and/or accepting letters of inquiry. The foundation does not accept unsolicited applications.
- Julia Stasch, President