If you don't know much about the philanthropy of Philip Anschutz, it's time to pay attention. The media-shy billionaire has quietly pumped more than $1 billion into a charitable outfit which now gives away tens of millions annually in a wide variety of areas. More than $50 million went out the door in 2013, with a decent slice of that going to education.
We're betting these numbers will keep heading upwards in coming years, given Anschutz's wealth ($10.3 billion), his age (75), and his deep commitment to philanthropy.
Yet as one of the biggest foundations in America without a website, or any way for nonprofits to scope out grant opportunities, the Anschutz Foundation is a tough nut to crack.
Here, we share a few things to know about how Anschutz approaches education giving.
1. Supporting Charter Schools is Key
Philip Anschutz is yet another billionaire who believes that charter schools are a key way to tackle America's education challenges. Like other funders in this space, his foundation gives money both to operate charter schools and to build the infrastructure and push reform policies that can help advance the charter movement.
The foundation's support of specific charter schools is generally restricted to Colorado and Oklahoma, with the biggest investments in Denver. Anschutz has given to KIPP schools in Denver and Oklahoma It's STRIVE charter schools and Axl Academy Foundation in the Denver area have also seen recent money. Axl Academy has been in financial trouble of late, and Anschutz recently gave $625,000 in support.
Meanwhile, the foundation has also given to a number of other ed groups, including many aligned with the charter movement. Teach for America received nearly $3 million between 2009 and 2011. In 2013, the foundation gave $500,000 to the Charter School Growth Fund, a national funders group that seeks to scale up charters. The Colorado League of Charter Schools received $100,000. The foundation also heavily backs a range of conservative think tanks that promote more choice in education, most notably the American Enterprise Institute.
2. Anschutz Money Also Reaches Students and Schools Through Values Work
Anschutz has said that "food banks, charter schools, and homeless shelters are a good way to help people, but in the long run, people grounded in solid values will be better situated to prosper on their own." By "values," Anschutz often means an emphasis on faith and family, and he's a big backer of religious work. But his foundation also promotes such values as empathy and respect for others.
The Foundation For A Better Life, an affiliated organization and major grantee, promotes values in a variety of ways, including by providing resources for K-12 schools. Another affiliate, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, is a nonprofit which works to inspire “kindness is schools, homes and communities." Its resources for schools include lesson plans and other classroom materials. In 2013, the two organizations together received $3.5 million. Colorado UpLift, an urban youth empowerment outfit, has also seen recent funds, as have a variety other groups that work with youth to promote community service or other positive activities. The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver is one of the foundation's biggest grantees, receiving over $1.5 million in 2013. But the Boy Scouts get money, too.
3. Various Other Educational Outfits Have Been Supported As Well
Anschutz has also been a big supporter of Denver public schools. Between 2009 and 2011, Denver Public Schools and Foundation received more than $1.3 million and in 2013, Denver Public Schools received more than $1.2 million. More significantly, the foundation is big supporter of both early childhood education and after-school programs, and this funding, too, is mainly confined to Colorado.
4. This Might Be Just the Beginning
The scope of the Anschutz Foundation's annual giving is very substantial. Hundreds of nonprofits get money every year, with grants ranging from $1,000 to a $1 million, and funding goes to nearly every domestic cause you can think of. Philip Anschutz is a funder that obviously has tremendous concern for the problems in society, but for all his giving he's barely scratched the surface of what he could give away relative to the size of his fortune.
What's more, his son Christian is philanthropic as well, building his own foundation. And his sister Sue Anschutz-Rodgers also has an active philanthropic operation.
So we're betting that the bulk of the Anschutz fortune will go to philanthropy, and it's only a matter of time before things start ramping up to a higher level. One obvious next step for the foundation would be to get a damn website.