S. H. Cowell Foundation Grant

S. H. Cowell Foundation

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Grant amount: Up to US $600,000

Deadline: Rolling

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Training / Capacity Building, General Operating Expense, Project / Program, Education / Outreach

Location of project: Counties in California: Alameda County, Alpine County, Amador County, Butte County, Calaveras County Show all

Location of residency: Counties in California: Alameda County, Alpine County, Amador County, Butte County, Calaveras County Show all

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About this funder:



Note: Call the Foundation prior to sending a letter or proposal. If your work meets the criteria, you will be invited to send a letter of introduction.

About Us

We invest in Northern and Central California communities that are committed to achieving lasting positive change for children and families living in poverty. Our work is guided by the following beliefs:

  • We believe that lasting community change is possible.
  • We believe in taking a holistic approach to addressing the unique needs and realities of a community.
  • We respect the commitment and expertise of local organizations.
  • We believe that authentic change happens when community stakeholders work interdependently.

Since 1956, we have granted nearly $300 million to more than 2,000 non-profit organizations and public schools. Visit our grant database to learn more about the work we have funded. 

What We Fund

Cowell is a grantmaking organization that invests in communities that are committed to achieving lasting, positive change for children and families living in poverty. We fund solutions and invest in the achievement of specific organizational and community goals.  Because we are interested in touching the lives of community members on multiple levels, we invest in projects, programs and initiatives that impact the following areas:

Families & Communities

Family Resource Centers and other community building efforts play a pivotal role in bringing together opportunities, resources and services that empower residents to improve their well-being. Comprehensive programs that promote early literacy, parent education, family economic success and health and wellness are integral to our vision of how to support strong families. We invest in these strategies to support families in raising children who are ready to learn and thrive and to ultimately encourage residents to become catalysts for positive change in their communities. 


We sustain neighborhood public schools that strive for improvement in learning and performance while taking into consideration the needs, aspirations and humanity of each student. We support work that's aligned with the standards and goals set by the State; but, more fundamentally, we invest in the development of schools and districts that foster teamwork, adaptation and growth among all their members, including teachers, students and families. English language development, social-emotional learning and deep content knowledge in the core academic subjects are all embraced within our vision of equitable student achievement.

Youth Development

Youth Development programs unlock the promise that is inherent in all youth by equipping them with the skills to reach their full potential. We support organizations that provide safe places for youth to explore their interests and aspirations, develop leadership skills, build confidence and resilience, and solidify a commitment to lifelong learning and community engagement.

Additional Grantmaking

In addition to direct, Place-based grants, we award Resource Capacity Building grants to advance the fields of Families and Communities, Education, and Youth Development. 

Cowell also awards grant to support:

  • Leadership Development, which is key to building resilient leaders who can shape and guide their organizations and communities. These investments often supplement operating and program grants and are critical to building the capacity of leaders and successful organizations.
  • Select Opportunities including affordable housing, workforce development and other community assets that fall outside our primary investment priorities. 

Funding Streams

Place-Based Strategy

The Foundation's primary grant-making strategy is place-based. This means that we seek opportunities to make clusters of grants in the same communities, supporting organizations that serve essentially the same children, youth and families.

No two of these places are alike. They may be urban neighborhoods, rural towns or unincorporated areas. Our goal is, over time, to develop and improve the opportunities that are available to community residents - especially children and youth.

The way to lasting community improvement is complicated, requiring many steps over a long time. It's also complex, in the sense that the whole sequence and arrangement of steps can't possibly be planned in advance. Circumstances change, and each step influences the next. Success requires attentiveness, adjustment and collaboration.

Our strategy is designed to address these essential conditions. We respond first and foremost to the assets and culture of the community. Then we seek ways to build on the insights, resources and achievements that are generated through the efforts of our grantees.

Our goal is to achieve the following results:

  • Stronger community organizations and institutions
  • More effective family functioning
  • Student success in and out of school
  • Children and youth who are better prepared for adulthood

Resource Capacity Building Grants

In addition to direct Place-Based grants, Cowell awards Resource Capacity-Building grants to advance the fields of Families and Communities, Education and Youth Development. 

Resource Capacity-Building grants enhance the resources, practices and cohesiveness of a field overall and are designed to benefit grantees engaged in place-based work, among others.

Often, it is our grantees themselves who alert us to the need and opportunity to invest in their fields. In any case, Resource Capacity-Building grants are a secondary strategy that supports our primary, place-based investments.

We rarely make Resource Capacity-Building grants in response to unsolicited inquiries. Nonetheless, we recommend that prospective applicants contact the Foundation to describe your work and explore the fit with Cowell's interests.

Who We Fund

We believe that you are an expert in your community. You know what programs, projects and initiatives will improve outcomes for your youth and families, and you know how best to maximize and activate your community's distinctive assets. If your approach to community change includes the following, we want to hear from you:

  • Bringing together key community stakeholders who collectively have the skills to be successful
  • Initiating and fostering productive working relationships
  • Activating the strong sense of place and community that exists among residents
  • Readiness and capacity to execute a work plan
  • Commitment to best practices
  • Openness to sharing the lessons learned with peers and other leaders in your field

Where We Fund

Cowell makes grants in neighborhoods, communities and towns in Northern and Central California. We seek opportunities to invest in places where community-based organizations, educators, civic leaders, residents and youth are working together to improve conditions for challenged children and families.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • We fund 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations, public schools and school district located in Northern and Central California that are focused on Families and Communities, Education, & Youth Development
  • Place-based funding: Communities must meet the following criteria to be considered for funding:
    • The community is located in Northern or Central California.
    • The community is experiencing acute and widespread poverty, as evidenced by the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch.
    • The community has a strong "sense of place" that arises from factors such as location, history and the shared goals and deep-rooted relationships among residents, community-based organizations and educators.
    • The community presents opportunities for investment in all of the following program areas: Families and Communities, Education and Youth Development.
    • Educators and public and non-profit service providers have productive working relationships and engage residents with a spirit of inclusion and interdependence.
    • Local leaders demonstrate commitment to the community as a whole by championing issues and efforts beyond the scope of their own roles and agencies.


  • We do not fund individual, partisan or religious projects.