O. P. and W. E. Edwards Foundation

OVERVIEW: This Montana-based funder prioritizes early childhood education and Native American youth. Unsolicited grant applications are not accepted, and the foundation is run by family members.

FUNDING AREAS: Children and youth, early childhood education, environment, Native American youth

IP TAKE: The bulk of foundation grantmaking comes from the General Fund, which is all about early childhood care and education. Efforts to benefit Native American children in the region receive attention.

PROFILE: The O. P. and W. E. Edwards Foundation is a family foundation based in Red Lodge, Montana. The foundation was originally incorporated in 1962 and bears the name of twin brothers, Oliver Pearl Edwards and William Earl Edwards. O.P.’s widow, Josephine Edwards, started the foundation in memory of her husband. W.E.'s estate later contributed to the foundation upon his passing, and the foundation name was changed to honor him and to benefit organizations designated in his will. Today, the foundation grants over $2 million to around 100 groups each year.

There are five funds at the foundation; none accept unsolicited applications. The General Fund focuses on low-income and at-risk children, youth and their families. The foundation provides general, program, emergency and matching challenge grant support. The primary topic of interest is early childhood education. The foundation makes other grants to out-of-school programs, young adult transitional programs, and Native American youth in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and the Dakotas.

The Sky and Earth Fund focuses on astronomy and other science programs that strengthen cultures and the economy in Montana and regional Native American lands. The Environmental Fund supports environmental education aiming to protect the planet; another is called the Sound Justice Fund. These three funds are considered to be unendowed pass-through discretionary funds, and grants are only recommended by the trustees.

The W.E.E. Testamentary Fund distributes annually to organizations Edwards designated in his will. No other organizations besides those named in his will are considered for these grants. Distributions are typically made in February or March.

A significant portion of this funder’s grantmaking stays in Montana, but grants occasionally go to other states and countries. The main areas for grantmaking are Montana, Wyoming, Vermont, and New York.

In a recent year, the foundation awarded over $1.3 million to General Fund grantees, $235,755 to Sky and Earth Grantees, $72,500 to arts grantees, $48,200 to Environmental Fund grantees, $5,000 to Sound Justice Fund grantees, and $815,600 to W.E.E. Fund grantees. Total grantmaking for the year was nearly $2.5 million. A list of past grants is available here. Organizations invited to apply can learn more about the process on the How to Apply page.

Today, the Edwards Foundation is controlled by a board of the original benefactors’ family members. Spanning three generations, the six board members are scattered throughout the U.S. and even overseas.

General questions can be directed to the foundation at 406-446-1077 or via email at info@opweedwards.org. A grantseeker’s best point of contact is the executive director, Amy Hyfield, who can be reached at ahyfield@opweedwards.org. Keep up with the funder at its Recent News section. Much of the news has a Montana-specific focus.

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