Simmons Foundation: Texas Grants

OVERVIEW: The Simmons Foundation primarily supports local organizations in the Greater Houston area and Harris County. The average grant award is between $15,000 and $20,000. This funder has been awarding at least $3 million in local grants each year lately and is not affiliated with the Dallas-based Harold Simmons Foundation.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, health, civic and community, human services, homeless populations, immigrants/refugees/victims of human trafficking, at-risk youth, LGBTQ, veterans, and women and children

IP TAKE: Simmons' education focus has been on out-of-school programs, health focus on access to health care, and human services focus on domestic violence and child abuse. Check out the past annual reports to see the trends. Oh, and put some real-world examples in your letter of inquiry, too.

PROFILE: The Simmons Foundation (not to be confused with the Harold Simmons Foundation, which is also based in Texas) was established in 1993 by Ola and L.B. Simmons’ granddaughter. The foundation focuses grantmaking on education, health, civic & community, and human services causes in Harris County, the Greater Houston area, and the surrounding Texas counties.

Since it was established, the foundation has awarded over $36 million in grants. At the end of a recent year, the foundation reported just shy of $6 million in assets and over $3 million in total giving. These figures have remained pretty steady. This is a funder that likes matching grants and has offered pretty much all types of funding, including operating support, emergency funds, technical assistance, seed money, equipment, capacity building, program development, and scholarships.

In the past, around 62 percent of all awarded funds supported women and girls, and the average grant size was $16,000. Human services has been the largest funding category lately, followed by health and education, then civic and community organization. More than half of recent funding has gone toward operating support, with program support making up about one-third of overall grantmaking.

Although Harris County is the primary geographical focus, Simmons occasionally funds other organizations in other parts of Texas that provide services that directly benefit the county. The foundation provides funding to faith-based organizations but refuses to support groups that require clients to participate in specific worship practices or that deny assistance, including family planning and abortion services. Simmons also doesn't support organizations that discriminate on the basis of lifestyles, including the LBGT community.  

In the recent past, the areas that the foundation pays the closest attention to include homeless populations, immigrants/refugees/victims of human trafficking, at-risk youth, LGBTQ, veterans, and women and children. Health grants are the focus of the first quarter, education in the second quarter, civic and community in the third quarter, and human services in the fourth quarter.

On Simmons’ “no fund list”, you’ll learn that this grantmaker doesn’t support major arts organizations, international organizations, seniors, substance abuse, people with disabilities, disease-related causes, adoption agencies, or major medical research projects. This is a funder that doesn’t target specific population groups with its grantmaking.

Past community engagement support has gone to the Texans Together Education Fund, Neighborhood Centers, Inc., and the Chinese Community Center. Education support has gone to Project GRAD Houston, Houston Achievement Place, and Small Steps Nurturing Center. And health support has gone to Eye Care for Kids, Aishel House Inc., and Mental Health America of Greater Houston.

The application process begins with an initial letter of inquiry, for which quarterly deadlines apply. LOIs are typically reviewed within 10 working days, and the foundation’s online system notifies applicants of submission receipt and a decision if the LOI was accepted or declined. Site visits aren’t made in the inquiry phase, but may be requested once you are invited to submit a full application. Check out the Grant Tips PDF for some advice and linguistic preferences.

The Simmons Foundation is operated by a three-woman, Houston-based staff consisting of an executive director, program officer, and grants coordinator. Amanda Cloud stepped up as the foundation’s new executive director in early 2015 after Linda K. May retired. Cloud previously served as a senior program officer and has served on the boards of an artist collective, Our Global Village, and a human services coalition, Texas One Voice.

Grantmaking questions should be directed to Kay Davis at 713-268-8099 or via email at Grantseekers in the Houston area should consider subscribing to Simmons’ news and special events list to keep up with recent happenings.


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