Harold Simmons Foundation: North Texas Grants

OVERVIEW: Harold Simmons’ two daughters run this family foundation that focuses its grantmaking on Dallas-area nonprofits.

FUNDING AREAS: Poverty, education, social welfare, women’s empowerment, gun safety, low-income communities, arts and culture

IP TAKE: This is a great local funder for Dallas-area nonprofits to get in touch with because grantmaking is expected to increase following the founder’s passing. The grantmaking categories are broad, but the geographic focus is narrow, adding up to a perfect combination for prospective grantees.

PROFILE: Harold Simmons used his wealth from the Cortran Corporation, a family trust, to establish the Harold Simmons Foundation in 1988. As a buyout investor, he earned over a billion dollars by selling Titanium Metals. Over the years, Cortran has held major stock in publicly traded companies like Valhi Inc., NL Industries Inc., Kronos Worldwide Inc. and CompX International, Inc.

Harold passed away in 2013 and left most of his $8 billion fortune under the control of his daughters, Lisa K. Simmons and Serena Simmons Connelly, who now run the Harold Simmons Foundation. He was a big Republican political supporter, giving more than $25 million to Republican super PACs in the 2012 presidential election. However, his daughters have exhibited more left-leaning tendencies in their views and philanthropic support. During his lifetime, the University of Texas graduate gave at least $177 million to UT Southwestern and his funds built the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Today, Lisa serves as the foundation president and Serena as the director of philanthropy. In a general sense, the foundation supports programs that promote human dignity, a safe and enriching environment, and comprehensive support systems for individuals, children, and families. More specifically, the foundation funds Dallas-area nonprofits in the fields of education, health care, social welfare, human rights, arts and culture, and civic improvement.

At the end of 2013, the foundation reported over $81 million in assets and more than $31 million in total giving. But in 2014, the foundation had just over $5 million in assets and $19 million in total giving. Keep an eye on this funder to see how giving trends may shift due to the recent inheritance. Harold also signed the Giving Pledge before his death, committing to give at least half of his wealth to charity. Thus far, most grants have been between $5,000 and $20,000 each, and go toward everything from operating expenses to capital needs and special projects.

The bulk of grants have been toward health and medical organizations lately (46 percent), followed by social welfare (16 percent), education (11 percent), and youth (also 11 percent). Past health grantees include Bryan’s House, PediPlace, the SpiritHorse Therapeutic Center, and Healing Hands Ministries. Social welfare grantees include the Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity and the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, and education grantees include East Dallas Community School and the Montessori Institute of North Texas. We have also seen foundation support for gun safety, anti-death penalty efforts, tenant groups, political transparency organizations, and the economic security of women.

There are no application deadlines and grant proposals are accepted all throughout the year. Grantmaking is generally limited to the Dallas metropolitan area, and proposals can be submitted via mail or email.

President Lisa Simmons' philanthropic affiliations include the following: TexProtects, Dallas Women’s Foundation, Nurse Family Partnership (at YWCA of Dallas), Girls Incorporated, Dallas Arboretum, Southwestern Medical Foundation, Media Projects, Greenhill School, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education, Southern Methodist University, The Conference of Southwest Foundations, and the Zero to Five Funders Collaborative. And Director Serena Simmons is affiliated with these groups: Dallas Women’s Foundation, TCU’s Institute of Child Development, TexProtects: Texas Association for the Protection of Children, UNT’s Contemporary Arab & Muslim Cultural Studies Institute, SMU’s Center on Communities & Education, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, and UNICEF.

The sisters have also enlisted the help of a grants director, Betsy Healy, who has a J.D. and practiced law in Dallas. With Serena, she co-founded and served as executive director of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, which serves local torture survivors, before joining the foundation in 2006.

To get in touch with the staff, complete the online contact form with questions.


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