The Pensacola-based Bear Family Foundation recently caught our attention with its latest grant commitments in Northwest Florida. That’s because it just put $1.7 million on the line for 34 nonprofits in the area, including a significant million-dollar grant.
Since 2002, this foundation has been led pretty exclusively by family members. This is the family foundation created from the success of the Lewis Bear Company, which is Anheuser-Busch’s oldest continuous distributor, and business has stayed within the family for five generations. But while beer is the family business, the family philanthropy is focused on something else entirely.
Childhood cancer emerged as the top issue for this Pensacola funder in the most recent giving cycle. To support this cause, BFF gave $1 million to the Rally Foundation and its Pensacola chapter, Rally Pensacola. More specifically, this money will be starting an endowment for the organization to promote research and provide financial support to families who have a child fighting the disease.
The founding couple’s daughter, Cindi Bear Bonner leads the Rally Foundation’s Pensacola chapter, a personal connection that explains the uncharacteristically large grant made for childhood cancer. Bonner got involved with Rally when a child in her neighborhood was diagnosed with cancer and she determined that childhood cancer is an underfunded area of grantmaking that needs more attention. Other new grants awarded by BFF were between $1,500 and $375,000 in size.
However, BFF isn’t exclusively a medical funder by any means. Other recent grants went to sports groups, arts organizations, and even religious causes. Food pantries and autism are other enduring issues of interest to this funder. After Rally, the next top-earning grantees were MANNA Food Pantries ($375,000), United Way ($100,000), Arc Gateway Foundation ($15,000), and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida ($12,500).
So, while childhood cancer was the top pick this round, don’t expect this to be the case next year. The purpose of this million-dollar grant was to create an endowment, likely influenced by a personal connection, and BFF is the type of grantmaker that likes to spread its funding around pretty evenly among various local causes.
To learn more about this funder’s local giving, check out our full profile of the Bear Family Foundation in the Southeast funding guide. Applications for new grants in Northwest Florida are due by November 1 of each year.