How Susan and Steve Chamberlin Support Education in the Bay Area

Lisa F. Young/shutterstock

Lisa F. Young/shutterstock

During their professional careers, Susan and Steve Chamberlin were all about constructing and building. Susan pursued a career in architecture after being just one of two women to complete Cornell University’s architectural program in the 1960s. Meanwhile, Steve Chamberlin worked in the real estate development and building industries for over 40 years. Now both retired in and in their 70s, the Chamberlin couple has been looking for different ways to build up their local community.

Thirteen years ago, the couple established the Chamberlin Family Foundation, which is a grantmaking entity worth getting to know in the Bay Area of California.

Local K-12 Public Schools

Local K-12 public schools are a primary interest for the Chamberlins, and this is an issue that hits close to home. Both Susan and Steve attended public K-12 schools, and they credit graduating from Roosevelt High School in Oahu, Hawaii to properly preparing them for their successful careers. The local school district in the Chamberlins’ home region of West Contra Costa serves approximately 32,000 students but has long-struggled to provide excellent schools. Something unique about this couple’s giving is that their foundation awards grants to individual teachers for classroom supplies and professional development. The foundation’s “gratitude grants” are up to $250, come in the form of American Express gift cards, and can be used for books and software.

Economic Inequity in Richmond

The Chamberlins are very concerned with economic inequity in the city of Richmond, which is something that drives the couple’s overall grantmaking. This broad concern translates into grantmaking through the foundation’s community giving initiative, which brought in over 70 nomination submissions from local people in 2018. It was actually just last year that the foundation announced its first-ever community-nominated grantmaking process that resulted in over $150,000 in funding. Recent grantees of this program include Oakland Youth Chorus, Seneca Family of Agencies, and Chess Yoga.

A Vision for West Contra Costa

But beyond just Richmond, the Chamberlins have a vision for the entire West Contra Costa region. They want to see excellent public schools in every neighborhood of this region so that all local students can reach their potential. The foundation makes grants to public schools, directly to teachers, for programs that help recruit and retain effective teachers, and for community advocacy efforts related to education. The foundation is based in Pleasanton, California and maintains a very strict local focus without generally branching out to national efforts that do not have relevant local applications.

Other Nonprofit Involvement

In addition to the Chamberlin Family Foundation, Susan and Steve Chamberlin keep busy with a nonprofit they launched in 2014 called Education Matters. This is an advocacy-focused nonprofit that “cultivates leaders, informs policy, and builds partnerships that advocate for high-quality schools and transformative growth for all West Contra Costa students.” Education Matters has its own designated staff and shares statistics on its website about school tax comparisons, teacher retention rates, and enrollment demographics.

Unfortunately for local grantseekers, the Chamberlin Family Foundation does not respond to unsolicited funding inquiries. Read more about this funder in IP’s Bay Area profile of the Chamberlin Family Foundation.