Bezos Family Foundation: Grants for Science Education

OVERVIEW: The Bezos Family Foundation is solely dedicated to enriching education for students—starting before formal education begins, continuing through K-12 education, and positioning students for college success and enriched lives. STEM is an explicit focus of the foundation.

IP TAKE: The parents of tech billionaire Jeff Bezos have quietly built a thoughtful and substantial foundation that supports STEM primary and secondary education on a structural level. But it doesn't accept unsolicited proposals or unsolicited inquiries.

PROFILE: The Bezos Family Foundation is the philanthropic passion project of Jackie and Miguel (Mike) Bezos—all bankrolled with shares of their Amazon stock. The foundation’s annual grantmaking has been growing lately with much of it devoted to improving U.S. public education and the students it serves.

The Bezos Family Foundation delineates its support of youth education into three areas: Excellence in K-12 EducationEarly Learning, and Youth Leadership and Global Engagement.

In terms of its priorities, the foundation looks to support programs that provide "transformative" experiences for youth. For Bezos, this objective translates to excellence in educational content (especially STEM), quality learning environments, civic engagement, exposure to a global perspective, and confidence in social and personal growth.

One way the foundation pursues these goals is through its support for STEM education for K-12 education. In fact, the Bezos Family Foundation explicitly states that it seeks to partner with "organizations that bring thoughtful innovations in K-12—with emphasis on STEM education." It is also focused on creating a consistency of experience—across geography, socio-economic, and racial barriers—so that any student has equal opportunity. This goal is a strong guidepost for the foundation's STEM education support.

The Bezos Family Foundation’s grantees work throughout the country, but there is a particular emphasis on Washington (Bezos’ home state). Some recent STEM education grantees have worked on projects like partnering with school districts to provide meaningful STEM education and academic support to students, supporting robotics teams in low-income schools, research on character development, and providing STEM teachers with professional development programs.

While STEM funding is far less common in Bezos’s Youth Leadership and Global Engagement, this program is still a potential option for STEM education fundraisers. As its name suggests, this program is directed at supporting “young, motivated leaders by providing opportunities that expand their awareness of global issues” by facilitating their readiness “to meaningfully contribute ideas and solutions for our most pressing social challenges.” Fewer overall grants have been made in this category, but the foundation’s partners have worked on STEM-related issues like fostering youth leadership in environmental conservation as well as mentorship for “high-potential, low-resourced” youth to encourage them to pursue STEM careers,.

Unfortunately, despite its deep pockets and widespread giving, the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals. Without direct access to the Bezos clan or its small group of staff, this funding source is a difficult one to crack.

PEOPLE:

  • Jackie Bezos, President
  • Mike Bezos, Vice President
  • Mark Bezos, Director
  • Greg Sommers, Managing Director, Strategy and Programs
  • Nicole Hanson, Program Manager, Youth Leadership

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