Rainwater Charitable Foundation: Texas Grants

OVERVIEW: The Rainwater Charitable Foundation, founded by investment billionaire Richard Rainwater, primarily supports education causes around Fort Worth, Texas. In recent years, the foundation has also funded research for neurodegenerative diseases.

FUNDING AREAS: Early childhood education, K-12 education, public schools, teacher and principal training, neurodegenerative disease research

IP TAKE: Grants are provided on an invitation-only basis, but nonprofits have the best chance of catching Rainwater’s attention with an early childhood education or teacher/principal training program. Just keep in mind that this is a funder especially partial to the Fort Worth area.

PROFILE: The late Richard Rainwater set up a grantmaking foundation, the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, in the early 1990s to focus on children with the greatest needs. He got his start in the investment industry for the Bass family in the 1970s. As an independent investor, Rainwater founded ENSCO International, Columbia Hospital Corporation, Mid Ocean Limited, and Crescent Real Estate Equities, and his net worth is estimated at about $3 billion. He spent much of his life in Fort Worth, Texas, and therefore, a significant portion of grants are made in this region.

Early childhood education has always been a big focus of the foundation. Grants support public education through 12th grade, with specific efforts on school leadership. Like some other locally focused funders, Rainwater believes that improving education begins with principals and supports development programs for principals as well as teachers. The Rainwater Leadership Alliance was established in 2008 to bring districts, nonprofits, and foundations together to improve principal and teacher quality. Education efforts in both Fort Worth and South Carolina, where Rainwater’s wife is from, are the geographic focus areas.

In 2009, Rainwater was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and started supporting research for neurodegenerative diseases. This is a disease with no known cause, treatment, or cure, and the foundation’s personal connection to it has expanded overall grantmaking. The Tau Consortium was formed by Richard and about 35 leading physicians and researchers in the field to find a cure. Since 2010, Rainwater has given over $50 million to the Tau Consortium. From both the foundation and his personal donations, Rainwater committed to providing $12 million more in 2015.

Dr. Bruce Miller, director of the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California at San Francisco and scientific director for the consortium, shared the following regarding Rainwater’s philanthropic approach: "This is an unusual family for me in terms of philanthropy. They’re fun, they’re unpretentious, they’re very direct."

Since the foundation was established, Rainwater and his staff have given more than $265 million to the types of organizations mentioned above. The foundation has also funded matching grants, such as the $100,000 one for hands-on environmental projects submitted by North Texas teachers a few years ago. Other past grants and grantees include $500,000 to UNTHSC’s healthy aging programs, the Zero to Five Funders Collaborative, Real School Gardens, and the Morningside Children’s Partnership. Giving in Texas has largely been focused on the birth-to-five demographic in recent years.

It does not seem that the Rainwater Foundation accepts unsolicited grant proposals or letters of inquiry, as there are no application instructions on the foundation’s website. General questions can be directed to the foundation at 817-820-6622 or via email at Information@TheRainwaterFoundation.com. Jeremy Smith, Rainwater’s vice president and executive director of charitable services can be reached at jsmith@rwtrine.com.

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