Grant committee announces funding focus on K-12 students during their out-of-school time

June 7th, 2016

When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced in 2009 that it had awarded a $90 million grant to the then Memphis City Schools for the Teacher Effective Initiative (TEI), no one in the region could have anticipated how it would catalyze investment in public education in the coming years.

Since then, grants to education organizations have grown from 36 percent of the Community Foundation’s annual portfolio to nearly 50 percent of the grants awarded by its donors. Through the Community Partnership Fund, the Foundation supported TEI with $50,000 a year from 2010 to 2014. Those grants were awarded by the Community Foundation’s Grants & Initiative committee, composed of community volunteers.

When its commitment to TEI was complete, the Grants & Initiatives committee found itself at a crossroads. It had spent years investing in public education, but it had also invested in other areas of need in the community. The committee wanted to be more strategic about its giving going forward, both leveraging its prior grant making and addressing community needs in the most effective way.

In 2015, the committee underwent a comprehensive evaluation of its grant making, with the goal of determining where its grant dollars could have the most meaningful impact. Committee members zeroed in on education as its primary focus area. They spent 2015 meeting with all the major foundations in the region, determining what those foundations were funding and where the leaders of those organizations thought the gaps in funding still existed.

After a year of evaluation, the committee decided to spend its grant making budget of $300,000 on organizations that serve K-12 students during their out-of-school time. Although millions of dollars flow into the school systems, little money is focused on building the capacity of the organizations that serve those same students after school and in the summer.

The Grants & Initiatives committee developed an initiative to support these organizations that will launch in summer 2016. The committee anticipates spending the next three years focused on this issue, and reporting back to the community the results of this investment from the Community Partnership Fund.

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