John Stephenson, J. Bulow Campbell Foundation

TITLE: Executive Director

FUNDING AREAS: Education, human services, youth development, arts and cultural institutions, and Christian-based charities

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Stephenson and the J. Bulow Campbell Foundation prefer Christian schools and related organizations, but past grant awards show some support for charter schools, especially when funding facilities.

PROFILE: John W. Stephenson is executive director of the Atlanta-based J. Bulow Campbell Foundation, a position he has held since 1985. Previously, Stephenson worked for Emory University as vice president for development.

Atlanta businessman J. Bulow Campbell established the foundation in 1940, and it has since provided grants for education, youth development, cultural amenities, and Christian charities. Campbell was a devout Christian and an active member of the Presbyterian Church. He was committed to Christian education and was instrumental in bringing Columbia Theological Seminary to Atlanta from South Carolina.

Consistent with J. Bulow Campbell's beliefs, the foundation is especially interested in projects related to the preservation and development of the Christian faith. In education, this means the foundation has supported private, Christian-oriented schools. In a broader sense, however, Stephenson and the foundation prefer independently funded schools, which means charter schools and charter networks have found support from this funder.

Even more significant for charter organizations is that the foundation prefers to fund capital projects rather than provide grants for operating expenses or recurring programs. Obtaining adequate facilities to house school operations often is a challenge for new charter schools. Charter organizations lack the power to levy taxes for facilities, and many states' charter policies do not provide start-up funding for these schools. Philanthropic organizations can help fill this gap by providing funding that enables charter schools to construct or lease facilities. The J. Bulow Campbell Foundation has provided funding to the KIPP charter school in Atlanta. KIPP is one of the nation's largest and fastest-growing charter school organizations.

"Most of our grants go toward new construction, major renovation projects, or endowment or property acquisition," Stephenson told Emory magazine in an interview about the foundation's philanthropic work.

An important thing to remember about Stephenson and the J. Bulow Campbell Foundation is that they concentrate their giving in Georgia, with the Atlanta area receiving particular emphasis. However, the foundation also will consider funding requests from organizations in the neighboring states of Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. This means that charter school organizations in these states could find a friend here. If you are outside these states, Stephenson is not the funder to approach, as the foundation states on its website that it does not award grants outside this six-state region.

Established charter school networks with a record of performance have the best chance of receiving funding from Stephenson, as evidenced by the past support of KIPP. The foundation's website states that it gives priority to organizations with programs of "acknowledged or potential excellence and give evidence or promise of regional leadership."

Stephenson appears to take an active role in evaluating the eligibility of applicants for funding. He told Emory magazine that the foundation's trustees select 8-10 proposals to examine each quarter for possible funding. Once the trustees have selected those proposals, Stephenson goes to an applicant, visits its leaders, collects financial and other information, and reviews plans for the facility or project for which the organization is seeking funding. After gathering this information, Stephenson prepares a report on each applicant for trustees to consider when deciding what to fund.

Consistent with J. Bulow Campbell's belief that charitable giving should be done quietly without donors calling attention to themselves, the foundation maintains a lower profile than other philanthropic organizations. It does not publish an annual report, and only limited information about past grants is available.