Roddenberry Foundation: Should You Pursue Their Grants?
The Roddenberry Foundation (TRF) is committed to advancing Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s faith in humanity by investing in bold ideas that catalyze innovation and change the world.
TRF’s grantmaking may present a good funding source to strengthen the work of your organization and support innovative programming. However, prior to pursuing their grants, it is crucial to understand their approach to grantmaking, their organizational priorities, and to verify if their grants are high-ROI opportunities for your nonprofit.
In this article, we’ll dive deep into the Roddenberry Foundation’s mission, vision, and grantmaking priorities, and discover surprising funding insights. We will also provide you with next steps to prepare a successful grant proposal, and if the funder is not a good fit, don’t fear! We will also share other foundations similar to the Roddenberry Foundation to direct you to additional prospects that may better align with your work.
Let us begin!
Roddenberry Foundation: Mission and Background
Premiering in 1966, Star Trek was a television series that had a cosmic impact on pop culture and an even greater impact on American society, championing social justice and fostering a vision of the future in which diversity and equality are the norm. The Roddenberry Foundation carries on this legacy by investing in organizations and people in the pursuit of significant, lasting change.
Founded by Gene Roddenberry’s son, Eugene ‘Rod’ Roddenberry in 2010, the Roddenberry Foundation’s mission is committed to investing in big, bold ideas that can change the world. By supporting remarkable risk-takers and unlikely changemakers, the Foundation strives to move closer to Gene Roddenberry's vision of a more progressive, inclusive, and harmonious society.
TRF employs a multi-faceted approach to grantmaking organized around their primary initiative areas instead of structured around prototypical grant cycles. The basis of TRF’s grantmaking approach is a core set of values designed to best meet the needs of grantseekers.
The core values undergirding the TRF’s approach to giving are:
Urgency: TRF prioritizes “problem-solving over paperwork”; meeting the most urgent challenges of the day means straightforward communication and processes over cumbersome reporting and grantmaking cycles that hinder organizations and individuals from making a real impact. The foundation centers the needs of communities served, meeting people where they are and acting with the same sense of urgency that the issues deserve.
Humble: TRF puts great stock in the expertise of impacted individuals, communities, and networks of organizations with expert level knowledge on tackling major societal issues. TRF knows that no one institution has all—or even a few—of the answers. TRF’s community of Fellows, Catalyst grantees, Prize awardees, judges, and partners have far greater insight into the issues and solutions than TRF ever will and their base of knowledge leads TRF’s actions and priorities.
Risk-taking: TRF believes that philanthropists and foundations need to take more risks. TRF emphasizes experimentation, creativity, and risk-taking for the organizations and individuals TRF supports.
Diverse: Achieving large scale, systemic social change requires a multitude of individuals and communities, from all walks of life, to play a role. Social change is a communal endeavor and the more people from diverse backgrounds who are engaged in this work, the better.
Inclusive: TRF believes change can be generated by any individual, team, organization, or business whose creativity reimagines notions of what can be done and how.
No Silver Bullets: No one idea or organization will solve poverty, income inequality, hunger, or any of the issues TRF aims to address. The problems that TRF seeks to solve require robust, urgent responses, led by thought leaders, organizations, and communities with lived experience. The foundation is not looking for one easy solution, but a comprehensive, iterative approach that takes many different points into consideration.
Each of these core values drive TRF’s grantmaking priorities and bolster their mission to deliver innovative solutions for the most pressing issues of our time.
Roddenberry Foundation: How to Apply and Active Grants
The Roddenberry Foundation’s giving is organized into four primary initiatives—The +1 Global Fund, the Roddenberry Fellowship, the Catalyst fund, and the Roddenberry Prize.
The Roddenberry Catalyst Fund makes grants to early-stage projects or ideas that address pressing global challenges. Grants are awarded in amounts from $2,500-$15,000 to individuals, teams of individuals, nonprofit organizations, or social enterprises with big ideas and bold vision.
Grantseekers can apply directly via the foundation’s grants portal. There are no set deadlines, with applications accepted year-round. Projects funded by a Catalyst award must be completed within a 9-month time frame. If your organization applies for a Catalyst grant but is not chosen, you may reapply if your organization has a new or different idea. The foundation asks that organizations not resubmit the same proposal twice.
The Roddenberry Prize is a $1.5 million dollar award in support of early-stage ventures that leverage scientific breakthroughs or emerging technologies. The Prize is by nomination only, awarding $1 million in non-dilutive financing, along with five $100,000 finalist awards to early stage ventures tackling the most urgent issues of our day—from climate change and mass migration to infectious disease and economic inequality. Organizations can be nominated by impact investors, foundations, academic institutions, accelerators, or other similar funders.
The +1 Global Fund was launched to respond to urgent needs in the global south by investing in and supporting high-impact, community based organizations that serve vulnerable communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Awards are nomination only, with nominations made by a network of high performing, trusted partners and globally recognized organizations.
These opportunities are well aligned for high-impact nonprofits with established connections to sector leaders, experts, and other partners who can make a compelling nomination.
The Roddenberry Fellowship is a fellowship awarded to exceptional U.S. based leaders and advocates who leverage innovative strategies to defend human rights and pursue equality for all. The Fellowship is a 12-month program offering $50,000 and access to a network of peers who are collectively working to reimagine a more equitable and inclusive society.
The Roddenberry Foundation’s emphasis on peer nominations and reliance on sector experts to guide their grantmaking priorities for many of their opportunities may seem intimidating for smaller or newer nonprofit organizations—but that should not discourage you from applying for an award through their more flexible Catalyst Fund.
In the next section, we will investigate some data-driven insights based on their grantmaking history so you can better identify if applying for a grant from the Roddenberry Foundation is a good fit for your nonprofit.
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The best way to identify if the Roddenberry Foundation is a good match for your nonprofit is to evaluate key information from their recently filed 990 reports.
Analyzing an organization's 990 can seem incredibly unappealing, especially for a large organization with the scope and reach of the Roddenberry Foundation. Organizations’ 990 forms are dull and cumbersome tax documents and few nonprofits have the capacity to complete a comprehensive assessment of the data therein.
Luckily, Instrumentl analyzes and disseminates funders’ 990 reports into easy to understand, useful data that allows users to identify key giving trends. Instrumentl takes a look at general giving trends, giving by NTEE code, and openness to new grantees to help users understand if pursuing an opportunity will yield a high-ROI.
Let’s take a look at some of these key insights on the Roddenberry Foundation.
General Giving Trends
To kick it off, let’s take a look at TRF’s general giving trends over the past few years. Information about a foundation’s history of giving often indicates future giving trends. This is a great place to start when identifying if a funder is a good fit for your organization!
In 2019, the Roddenberry Foundation gave a total of $3,790,974 with an average grant size of $39,489. TRF awarded just under 100 grants with a median grant size of $14,960.
According to past trends, TRF gave far more in 2019 ($3,790,974) than they did in 2018 ($2,659,050). These increases indicate that the foundation’s total giving is going up, which is a good sign.
While the total giving amount and grant size have fluctuated over the past several years, the giving amount has stayed within a range of $2 million to $4 million. Given these amounts, it is clear that even if the next year represents a decline, the Roddenberry Foundation still has an immense capacity to give.
Funding by NTEE Code
Understanding if a funder has the capacity to give is one thing, but it is equally (if not moreso) important to identify a funder’s willingness to fund projects or programs that are similar to yours.
You can better understand this by evaluating a foundation’s giving based on the NTEE (National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities) code.
The Roddenberry Foundation’s scope is very broad, with funding areas as disparate as economic inequality and climate change, so it is important to take a closer look at what priority areas their dollars are going to.
According to Instrumentl’s NTEE code breakdown, TRF has awarded over $882,000 to organizations focused on Human Services, with 63% of that amount awarded to projects and organizations focused on “Financial Counseling”, 31% going toward general “Human Services”, and 6% going toward “Victims Services”.
TRF also gave a great deal to the areas of Medical Research, Public & Social Benefit, and Education. Specifically, TRF gave over a combined $1 million to “Medical Disciplines Research”, “Citizen Participation”, and “Special Education”.
These NTEE subcategories are just as important to note as the broader area focuses, and they can help you determine if the amount of funding you’re looking for aligns with how the Roddenberry Foundation has given to similar initiatives in the past.
You can get a 14-day free trial of Instrumentl to take an even deeper dive into the NTEE focus of the Roddenberry Foundation.
Openness to New Grantees and Average Giving Amounts
The Roddenberry Foundation explicitly focuses on new ideas and innovations to tackle complex challenges. This makes the foundation a perfect fit for new grantees who can illustrate the unique ways in which their project or program addresses the urgent needs of the community.
According to Instrumentl’s analysis of new and repeat grantees from 2019, TRF has a clear preference for new grantees. This preference is even more apparent when taking a look at amounts awarded in 2018, with ALL of their grants awarded to new grantseekers!
While this would seem like an immediate green light to any nonprofit looking to pursue funding from TRF, it is important to think strategically about how to approach an opportunity to seek funding from them.
While it is clear that TRF has a preference for new grantees, that means that projects that require funding for a long period of time would potentially not be an attractive proposal for the foundation. If your organization or project is looking to sustain operations for many years or even more than 12 months, a grant from the Roddenberry Foundation may not be the best fit.
[BONUS TIP] Geographic Distribution of Past Grantees
Before making a final decision about your organization’s alignment with the Roddenberry Foundation, consider the geographic distribution of the foundation’s giving.
While the Roddenberry Foundation is open to nonprofit organizations and other grantseekers, data from the past two years indicates that TRF has a preference for awarding grants to organizations located in the United States, with the majority of past grantees located in California.
While this information is helpful, it should not be the main factor in your decision to pursue a grant from the Roddenberry Foundation. Take into account other data and elements (e.g. openness to new grantees) when making a final decision about your compatibility with the foundation.
Roddenberry Foundation: Key People and Past Grantees
Once you have made your way through this post and determined the Roddenberry Foundation is a good fit, you are ready to take on these next steps and begin making key connections.
Get in Touch With Key People
When it comes to the nonprofit sector, it is sometimes all about who you know. Talking to key individuals and tapping into your network is one of the best ways to develop a strong relationship with a new funder.
Knowing who to reach out to when you are getting started on making an ask of a new foundation can be daunting. Foundations have robust networks of executives, board members, and trustees, and it can be difficult to determine who the best individuals to reach out to are.
Luckily, Instrumentl curates this information, identifying key people from each foundation or grantmaking organization so you do not have to go through exhaustive research to identify important individuals you can potentially reach out to.
The Roddenberry Foundation is a family foundation, so many of the key individuals associated with this funder are family members of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
As previously mentioned, Eugene ‘Rod’ Roddenberry is the founder of TRF and is the foundation’s current acting Vice President and helps shepherd the foundation alongside his wife and acting President Heidi Roddenberry. The other two key individuals leading the organization alongside the husband and wife team are Morton Kessler (Treasurer) and Andrew Garb (Secretary).
The Roddenberry Foundation also relies on peer nominations for many of their grant programs. Take the Roddenberry Foundation’s +1 Global Fund, which relies on a network of established partner organizations to nominate qualified peers. Consider your organization’s existing network of funders, partner organizations, and other connections to see if their reach extends to TRF’s other partners that they rely on for nominations and key references.
Contact Past Grantees
Relying on peer expertise is not only a tenant of TRF’s grantmaking programs, it is excellent practice for any nonprofit organization seeking new sources of funding.
Reaching out to or evaluating TRF’s network of past grantees can help you determine if the foundation is interested in giving to organizations that are similar to you both in scope and size. Doing so can also help you develop relationships with key organizations and individuals who can provide crucial insight into the application process.
Take a look below at the list of TRF’s grantees from the past year, and visit Instrumentl for a more in depth analysis.
Foundations Similar to Roddenberry Foundation
Now that you have taken a comprehensive look at the Roddenberry Foundation, you may have come to the conclusion that it is just not the right fit for your organization, project, or program.
Not to worry! Part of prospect research is as much about identifying which foundations are not a good fit as it is about finding ones that are.
Here is a list of 6 other foundation that are similar to the Roddenberry Foundation for you to look into:
The MacArthur Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation
Nathan Cummings Foundation
The Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation
The Ford Foundation
The Joyce Foundation
Wrapping Up: Next Steps to Take from Here
It’s so important to evaluate whether or not a funder is a good fit before you invest your valuable time and energy into submitting a proposal. By now, you should be confident in your determination about whether the Roddenberry Foundation is a good fit for your project.
To solidify your determination, add up all your scores from throughout this article. Use the following scoring breakdown to make your final conclusion about funder fit. Be sure to round your cumulative score to the nearest 10th.
Great fit: 8.5 - 11
Good fit: 3.8 - 7.8
Bad fit: <= 0.8
Whether you have discovered if the Roddenberry Foundation is a good fit or a poor fit for your nonprofit, you are still one step closer to securing new funding for your organization.
With Instrumentl, you have access to thousands of other foundations with data that will point you in the right direction of active grant opportunities that will result in a high-ROI for your nonprofit. Visit Instrumentl to start your 14-day free trial and tap into a robust compendium of foundations and grant opportunities today!
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