Bear Family Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder supports a wide range of topics in Northwest Florida, including childhood disease, autism, food pantries, youth sports, and arts & culture. The annual grant application deadline is November 1.

FUNDING AREAS: Childhood disease, autism, food pantries, youth sports, arts & culture

IP TAKE: Bear’s funding topics are broad, but this is a well-connected family that runs a very family-involved foundation. It prioritizes grantees who have a connection to causes involving the Bear family.

PROFILE: The Bear Family Foundation (BFF) supports nonprofits in Northwest Florida through grants in a wide variety of program areas. It seeks to “help support quality non-profit organizations which better the lives of those with needs living in Northwest Florida. “ The foundation was established and incorporated in 2002 and built off of the family business, the Lewis Bear Company, a beverage distribution company that has been around since 1876 and has been in the family for five generations. It is the oldest privately held corporation in Florida and the oldest continuous distributor for Anheuser-Busch. Other breweries’ beers it distributes include Landshark, Victory, Woodchuck, Pensacola Bay Brewery and many more.

BFF has a foundation board of eight family members. There are two generations on the board, including Lewis Bear Jr. as the principal. His wife and their direct descendants and their spouses make up the remaining board members.

This is a foundation that prioritizes support for grantees that it has supported in the past. Since 2003, BFF has funded just over 50 nonprofits. It is also very locally focused and sticks to Pensacola and the northwest region of Florida for its grantmaking. It awards grants to private operating foundations, public charities, and private foundations. The Bear Family Foundation and the Lewis Bear Company are separate organizations, but the company has its own giving strategy as well.

Applying for a BFF grant is very straightforward. The application form is posted online, and grant seekers can apply online or print it out and send in by mail. Grant applications should be sent to the attention of Cindi F. Bear. The yearly application deadline is November, and applications received after this date will not be considered until the following year. Additional materials are welcome to send in with the application. Grant seekers awarded a grant should have those funds in hand by the end of the calendar year.

According to the foundation website:

At times, the funds requested are part of a much larger fund drive. If the application is approved for a specific project within the organization, The Bear Family Foundation restricts the money to be used towards the success of the project being considered. Depending on purpose, the foundation may require a specific performance area for the funds.

Grantseeker questions can be directed to the Bear family via online form.


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