Here’s an Oil and Gold Pioneer That Northern California Nonprofits Should Know



While many of the fortune hunters of the American gold rushes died penniless and unknown, others in California turned early successes into a long-standing legacies of giving back. A good example of this is Clarence J. (C.J.) Berry, a Fresno, California, fruit farmer who found success in the Alaskan gold mining industry and went on to become a California oil legend. Berry founded the Berry Petroleum Company, and his family established the C.J. Berry Foundation, focusing its grantmaking on the regions that made the founder rich.

Berry suffered a burst appendix and died unexpectedly in 1930, but he left his family with sizable wealth that they have chosen to invest in local communities. Today, the C.J. Berry Foundation is a California public benefit corporation that local grantseekers should know.

Five Topical Focus Areas

The Berry foundation has very broad interests and not a whole lot of guidelines for grantseekers to go by. There are five main interests at this foundation: arts and culture, conservation, education, health, and human services. Past grantees include CA Wild Sheep Foundation, Pacific Legal Foundation, Homeless Prenatal Program, Bay Area Rescue Mission, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Berkeley Community Health Project. Other California grantees are Hospice of the Valley, the CA Waterfowl Association, and the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance. Most of these grants have been between $5,000 and $75,000 each.

Three Geographic Regions of Interest

The founder, C.J. Berry, wasn’t just a businessman, but also a citizen deeply concerned about local people and the environment. His foundation aims to support the regions that were important to Berry and help the communities that meant a great deal to him. Geographically, the Berry foundation’s interests are Northern California, Central California, and Alaska. It is highly unlikely that groups outside these regions would receive Berry’s support.

Unsolicited Requests are Not Accepted

Unfortunately for grantseekers in the Bay Area and beyond, the Berry Foundation is not open to unsolicited grant proposals or even more subtle letters of interest about available opportunities. Furthermore, Berry does not make grants for medical research, individuals, international causes, loan repayments, endowment funds, or 509(a)(3) supporting organizations. However, the funder does make itself accessible to local nonprofits by providing its contact information and fielding questions.

Learn more about the C.J. Berry Foundation and how to contact the staff with general inquiries in IP’s Bay Area Funders Guide.