Musk Foundation: Should You Pursue Their Grants?

The Musk Foundation was founded in 2002 by famous technology entrepreneur Elon Musk. The California-based foundation focuses its giving on a few specific areas of interest, all of which center around renewable energy, space exploration, pediatric research, and science and engineering education.

With such a famous name, the Musk Foundation may be an intriguing prospect for your grant writing. However, before you invest your time and energy into submitting a proposal to the foundation, you should determine if your project is a good fit for their focus.

How do you do that, you ask? Let us show you!

As you read this article, you will assign yourself scores based on specific criteria to help you determine if your project is a good fit for the Musk Foundation. This will ensure you are focusing your time on high-ROI opportunities.

Let’s go!

Musk Foundation: Mission and Background

Mission

According to the Musk Foundation’s website, the foundation makes grants in support of:

  • Renewable energy research and advocacy
  • Human space exploration research & advocacy
  • Pediatric research
  • Science & engineering education
  • Development of safe artificial intelligence to benefit humanity

Criterion #1: Add a score in the range of 1-3 to indicate how closely your nonprofit's mission aligns with the Musk Foundation.

Score Explanation
+1 Add this when there is little to no understanding of the alignment between you and the Musk Foundation
+2 Add this when there is a distant alignment between you and the Musk Foundation - e.g. Foundation supports a broader funding category.
+3 Add this where there is an evident close alignment between you and the Musk Foundation.

This information is helpful, but there is so much more that we can show you to help you determine if the Musk Foundation is a good-fit funder for your project.

Keep reading!

Musk Foundation: Interesting Funder Insights

Data Analysis

You can discover whether you and the Musk Foundation are a good fit by looking at some key statistics in their 990 data.

However, we know that looking at 990 data is overwhelming. It's clunky, hard to read, and even harder to interpret! But don’t worry—Instrumentl analyzes and breaks down funders' 990 data into reader-friendly, easily digestible pieces of information that make it easy to identify trends. Phew!

Here are 3 key things that Instrumentl’s 990 tool can show you to help you figure out if applying to the Musk Foundation is a good use of your time. Let’s go!

#1 General Giving Trends

First, let’s take a peek at the funder’s giving trends over the last few years. Past giving is by far the best indicator of future giving!

Musk Foundation Key Financial Stats

Instrumentl pulls the funder’s key financial information from their 990 forms and displays them in easy-to-read bar graphs.

As you can see above, the Musk Foundation’s giving history has been inconsistent over the last 5 years. You can see by the downward trend that their giving has reduced by 50% since 2017, dropping from nearly $48 million to $23 million. This indicates that the foundation’s giving will likely continue to decrease in the coming years, which isn’t a great sign for grantseekers!

Criterion #2: Deduct 0.5 points from your funder score to reflect the Musk Foundation’s negative giving trend for the last 3 years.

Score Explanation
-0.5 Add this since Musk Foundation has had a decreasing giving trend for the last 3 years.

Total giving is important, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Let’s also take a look at the number of grants awarded by the foundation.

Musk Foundation Key Financial Stats

As you can see in the bar graph above, the number of grants has actually increased over the last 3 years, from 2 in 2017 to 10 in 2020. While this may seem promising, it should be considered in relation to the total giving data we reviewed above.

Since total giving decreased, but the number of grants increased, we can infer that the foundation is awarding less money per grant award. Not good news!

Let’s keep digging—looking at the foundation’s giving average can also provide some valuable insights.

Musk Foundation Key Financial Stats

As you can see, the foundation’s giving average was pretty consistent from 2012 to 2016, but experienced a huge increase in 2017, jumping from just over $10,000 to over $23 million! However, 2020 saw a significant decrease in the giving average, with the amount falling down to $2.3 million.

While the foundation’s average grant amount has increased overall in the past three years, you can see from the graph that there really isn’t a stable trend—so keep that in mind when using these funding insights to evaluate your funder fit.

Criterion #3: Add 1 point to your funder score to reflect the increase in the average grant amount given by the Musk Foundation for the past 3 years.

Score Explanation
+1 Add this when the average grant amount awarded by the Musk Foundation has increased for the past 3 years.

Remember—these are just two metrics that we will consider as we evaluate funder fit. Keep reading to learn even more factors that you should consider!

#2 Funding by NTEE Codes 

Funding by NTEE codes is by far the most important factor to consider in funder evaluation.

Why is this information so important? Many funders tend to unequally split their budget between different funding purposes and categories. By using Instrumentl’s NTEE Codes breakdown, you can review how the Musk Foundation allocates its funds. This will help you determine if your project fits within a category they fund, and how much funding projects in that category typically receive.

Keep in mind—you won’t find this information anywhere but on Instrumentl’s funding per NTEE code report!

Musk Foundation NTEE Code Details

The Musk Foundation funds projects that fall into two NTEE categories. Education receives the highest amount of funding, with $1.1 million. Public Safety, Disaster Preparedness & Relief receives the lowest amount of funding, with only $250,000.

Musk Foundation NTEE Code Details

Each category is broken down into subcategories. Looking at the table above, you can see the subcategories that fall under the “Education” category. While the average grant amount listed for Education is $25,000, you can see by reviewing the subcategories that their averages actually vary significantly.

For example, the average grant amount for Adult Education projects is $1 million, while the average amount for Educational Services is only $2,500. This illustrates that taking the average category amount at face value can mislead you as you determine funder fit. It’s important to dive deeper into the subcategories to make sure you see the bigger picture.

Don’t forget—you can create a free Instrumentl account to discover more NTEE subcategories and their funding amounts!

Criterion #4: Add a score in the range of 0-2 to your funder score to indicate whether the Musk Foundation’s funding for your niche is what you desire.

Score Explanation
0 Add this when the Musk Foundation's funding for your niche lies below your desired amount.
+1 Add this when the Musk Foundation's funding for your niche is around your desired amount.
+2 Add this when the Musk Foundation's funding for your niche is greater than your desired amount.

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#3 Openness to New Grantees and Their Average Grant Amounts

There’s no “magic number” to look for in terms of new versus repeat grantees, but we have found that having a 40% to 60% ratio is a good middle ground.

Musk Foundation Openness to New Grantees

Over the last 3 years, 53% of the Musk Foundation’s grant awards have gone to new grantees. This is promising! In fact, as you can see in the above graph, 100% of grants in 2017 and in 2020 were awarded to new grantees.

This is a good indicator that the Musk Foundation will continue to be open to new grantees in years to come.

Criterion #5: If you are a new grantee, add the Musk Foundation’s proportion of giving to new grantees to your funder score.

If you are a repeat grantee, add the Musk Foundation’s proportion of giving to repeat grantees to your funder score.

Score Explanation
.53 Add this when you are a new grantee for the Musk Foundation.
.47 Add this when you are a repeat grantee for the Musk Foundation.

[Bonus Tip] Geographic Distribution of Past Grantees

Here’s a bonus tip! Many funders concentrate their giving on specific geographic regions. Determining if your organization or project is located in a state or region that has been historically represented in the foundation’s giving portfolio is helpful information to have as you determine funder fit.

Looking at the map below, you can see that the Musk Foundation has funded projects across much of the United States.

Musk Foundation Past Grantees

California is the most heavily represented state, with 51 grants awarded over the last 5 years.

New York is the next most heavily represented state, having received 10 awards.

States like Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and Washington are sparsely represented, with only 1-2 awards each.

Florida, Maine, North & South Carolina, and Indiana are among states that are not historically represented and have not received grant awards from the Musk Foundation.

Keep in mind that geographic location is only one of the many variables that should be taken into consideration when determining if the Musk Foundation is a good-fit funder.

Criterion #6: Add a score in the range of 0-3 to your funder score to indicate whether or not your organization’s state has been historically represented.

Score Explanation
0 Add this when your state isn't historically represented - shaded in white - among past grantees.
+1 Add this when your state is sparsely represented - shaded in light purple - among past grantees.
+2 Add this when your state is represented more heavily - shaded in darker purple - among past grantees.
+3 Add this when your state is represented most heavily - shaded in darkest purple - among past grantees.

Musk Foundation: Key People and Past Grantees

Key People

By now, you should have an idea of whether the Musk Foundation may be a good-fit funder for your project. If the answer is “yes,” we have an action item for you to add to your to-do list before you tackle writing a grant proposal.

If the answer is “no”, don’t worry! We have a list of similar funders that may be better fit—just keep reading!

Contact Musk Foundation’s Past Grantees

Organizations that have received funding from the Musk Foundation in the past are well-equipped to give you guidance and insights about how to get your project funded. Their insider tips may not be public knowledge and may help you increase your likelihood of getting funded.

Instrumentl makes it easy to connect with these insiders with its past grantees feature.

Musk Foundation Past Grantees

Sign up for your free Instrumentl account today to view past grantees from even more foundations that you are interested in learning about!

Foundations Similar to Musk Foundation

Fund Raising

After reading through all this information, you may have decided that the Musk Foundation isn’t a great fit for your project or organization. That’s ok! It’s better to find out now before you spend a lot of time and effort crafting a well-thought-out proposal.

To help you along in your grant-seeking quest, we are providing you with a list of funders that are similar to the Musk Foundation that may be a better fit. Here you go!

  • Clinton Foundation
  • Bilger Foundation
  • Thomas & Dorothy Leavey Foundation
  • Harman Family Foundation
  • Ford Foundation
  • Sloan Foundation
  • Gerber Foundation

Wrapping Up: Next Steps to Take from Here

After having added up all the scores throughout the article, you can use our scoring breakdown to conclude if the Musk Foundation is a good fit for your organization. Make sure to round your cumulative score to the nearest 10th.

  • 8.5 - 11 Great fit
  • 3.8 - 7.8 - Good fit
  • 0.8 - Bad fit

It’s incredibly important to evaluate funder fit before you spend time applying for grants. A funder’s 990 data can reveal so many useful insights about giving trends, but those insights can be hard to identify because of the 990 form’s unreadability. This is where Instrumentl comes in! Instrumentl makes it super easy to understand all of that data and insight so that you can focus your time and energy on proposals that have a high ROI.

Create your free Instrumentl account today to explore and vet more foundations and get matched with 100+ relevant grants!

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