Getting to Know Houston's Simmons Foundation Grantmaking

Although the Dallas-based Harold Simmons Foundation may make a few more local headlines in Texas, the Houston-based Simmons Foundation is another grantmaker worth a close look. This foundation places a high priority on the Greater Houston area, Harris County, and the surrounding Texas counties in a range of program funding areas.

Now that you know the places important to the Simmons Foundation, here's a look at its priorities and where it's made the largest show of support lately.

Women & Girls

In 2013, approximately 62 percent of Simmons Foundation support went to women and girls. Many of these grants fall under the health program umbrella.

Hispanic/Latino Organizations

According to the most recently released annual report, the Simmons Foundation’s support for Hispanic/Latino causes has topped funding for other ethnic groups. That could be partly due to the fact that approximately 38 percent of Harris County identifies with this demographic.

Domestic Violence & Child Abuse

Human services causes have captured the bulk of Simmons’ attention lately, and within that category, domestic violence and child abuse have emerged as top causes. Past domestic violence grantees include Child Advocates of Fort Bend, Boat People SOS, and the Houston Area Women’s Center. Other human services causes that Simmons cares about include basic needs, emergency services, homelessness, workforce readiness, veterans, LGBTQ communities, immigrants, and refugees.

Expanding Access to Healthcare

Support for health causes has mostly been related to access, mental health, sex education and pregnancy prevention, and women’s health. Simmons provides funding to faith-based organizations but refuses to support groups that deny assistance, including family planning and abortion services. Examples of past health care access grantees include El Centuro de Corazon, Gateway to Care, and Healthcare for the Homeless-Houston.

Out-of-School & Enrichment Programs

The biggest education categories that Simmons has provided funding for recently are out of school and enrichment programs, college readiness and completion, drop-out prevention, PreK-12 professional development, and early childhood. Among those, out-of-school programs have been seeing the most support, and early childhood causes the least support. Examples of past out-of-school program grantees are Amigos de las Americas, Breakthrough Houston, and the Children’s Prison Arts project.

Open to New Grantees 

This is a funder that doesn’t shy away from new organizations that it hasn’t previously supported. In fact, 20 percent of organizations were newly funded in 2013. That’s a significant portion of overall grantmaking, especially since there were 32 new organizations funded that year.

Grant Totals Hover at $3 Million

Unlike some other local grantmakers, Simmons Foundation grantmaking has been consistent over the last several years. In every year between 2009 and 2013, grant totals were between $3,026,500 and $3,594,398. The biggest recent grantmaking year was 2011. The average grant is just over $16,000 and most funding has been for operating support.

Quarterly Information Sessions

We love to see foundations take the guesswork out of submitting grant requests, and the Simmons Foundation does exactly that. Most recently, the foundation hosted a two-hour information session on August 31 for potential human services grantseekers, which included an overview of the portfolio, a panel with community leaders, and a Q&A session. Letters of inquiry are accepted for a different program area each quarter. Subscribe to the foundation’s news & special events list to be notified about the next session.

To learn more about this locally-focused funder, check out IP’s profile of the Simmons Foundation’s Texas giving.