S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation: Grants for STEM Education

OVERVIEW: This San Francisco-based funder’s grantmaking prioritizes California, the environment, and STEM education.

IP TAKE: Bechtel announced it “will invest all of its assets by 2020,” and while grantmaking has been on the rise, it has stopped taking uninvited proposals or inquiries.

PROFILE: The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation was created by Stephen Bechtel Jr, head of the Bechtel Corporation, the largest construction and engineering firm in the country. Bechtel is one of a number of prominent Bay Area foundations that give a great deal of support for STEM education and the environment. The foundation seeks to invest “in a vibrant, sustainable future through development of young people and stewardship of natural resources.” Bechtel plans to spend down its entire assets by 2020.

The Education Program is subdivided into three funding priorities: STEM, character development, and education policy and advocacy. The STEM programs help school districts implement Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core standards in math. Bechtel funds school districts to help them adopt the standards and also funds programs to help teachers prepare for them, including Math in Common and the Fresno Teacher Residency Program.

The Character program funds youth groups and mentoring programs. Past grantees of this program include Girls Incorporated, the Boys & Girls Club of America, and the STEM2program, a partnership between schools and afterschool programs in California to improve science education outside of the classroom.

As part of the Policy and Advocacy program, the foundation seeks “to ensure that adopted policies best meet the needs of students and their educators” by working “with partners to bolster the resources that inform decision makers, support new math and science standards, and improve the quality of student learning both in- and out-of-school.” To this end, Bechtel provides direct grants to NGSS and a nonprofit organization called Achieve.

As a result of its commitment to spend down by 2020, Bechtel no longer accepts uninvited proposals and LOIs. President and daughter of Bechtel, Lauren Dachs, indicated the foundation will be working to position its grantees for long-term financial stability and exploring funder collaboratives. She also said that the foundation will be awarding “modest grants to build knowledge and perspective on foundation exits and spend-downs” for other organizations who find themselves in similar positions in the future.