This Funder Values Libraries and Literacy, Especially for the Elderly

The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust was established in 1989 to carry on the giving legacy of May and Stanley Smith, who made their fortune primarily in the world of iron ore mining in Malaysia. The mission of the trust is to support “organizations that offer opportunities to children and youth; adults and families; elders; and people with disabilities that enrich the quality of life, promote self-sufficiency, and assist individuals in achieving their highest potential."

The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust's recent giving shows it understands how both literacy and libraries can be sources of, tools for, and means by which to achieve this mission, particularly with the elderly population—one of four population groups the trust targets with its grants. The other three are Foster Youth, Veterans and People with Disabilities, which could also naturally benefit from engagement with library and literacy programs-- and there's nothing to inherently prevent the trust from supporting work with these other populations too.

The Smith Trust provides a rigorous assessment of the needs of these targeted populations and therefore the trust’s goals in each area—as well as discussions of what a successful program would look like. Overall, the trust seeks to support programs that provide “dignity, agency, and self-sufficiency”—a good blueprint for how to present your program. Be sure to read these rubrics comprehensively before attacking the trust’s application, in order to understand how your library or literacy-based program will best fit.

And attack the application you must, because while it begins with an LOI open to all, it is a rigorous one, requiring specific outcomes past and future, as well as comprehensive financial reporting. The trust explicitly states that startups, emerging organizations, and new programs are not eligible for its support, and this makes perfect sense once you delve into the LOI—there is no way a new organization or program therein could discuss financials and recent outcomes with the rigor this funder requires. If you have been around long enough, still be aware that the trust ideally looks for organizations with yearly operating budgets of at least $250,000 and those with less than 70 percent of costs supported by government funding. (The application provides a section in which to discuss your organization’s relationship with government funding, and why private support is important to your program/organization.)

The good news if you check these boxes: the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust makes healthy-sized grants, typically ranging from $30,000 - $100,000 per year, and will give multi-year gifts for both program and general operating costs.

The other specificity is geography. The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust explicitly directs its giving to the Western U.S., though its definition of the West is broad, defining it as Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. (For the record, the trust also gives to British Columbia, Canada.) While the executed work must be done in these states, the trust’s giving history shows that the organization itself can potentially be based elsewhere, with work in the trust’s targeted states.

Recently grants to libraries and literacy programs for the elderly include Lifetime Arts (New Rochelle, NY) "to build the capacity of public libraries in the western region to engage older adults through creative programs" with $150,000 over two years. And $120,000 over two years went to the Jewish Coalition for Literacy (San Francisco, CA) "to provide community engagement opportunities for older adults as literacy tutors for K-3 schoolchildren."

The May and Stanley Smith’s Charitable Trust’s LOI is rolling; if you’re ready for its rigor, you can apply at any time.

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