Our Funding Priorities

Place-Based Grant Making

The Foundation’s primary grantmaking strategy is place-based. We seek opportunities to make clusters of complementary grants in specific communities, supporting public and nonprofit organizations that serve essentially the same children, youth, and families. 

We respond first and foremost to the capacities and vision of the community and to expressed community needs. Then we seek ways to build on the insights, resources, and achievements generated through our grantees’ efforts.

We prioritize places in Northern or Central California that are experiencing acute and widespread poverty, where people of color likely experience disparate outcomes. Our goal is to achieve more capable, responsive, and effective community organizations and institutions.

Through the sustained, concerted efforts of those organizations, we expect community residents to realize benefits including:

  • The healthy development and education of children
  • The economic and social advancement of their families
  • The opportunity to influence the conditions that shape their lives

How We Partner

 Our decision to engage and invest in a community represents a mutual commitment that we hope will grow over time. In the last stages of our involvement, we look to help our grantees position themselves for long-term sustainability, adaptability, and accomplishment.

Cowell engages in an exploratory process and uses the following criteria in establishing long-term community partnerships:

  • The community is located in Northern or Central California.
  • The community is experiencing acute and widespread poverty.
  • 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.
  • Community partners are advancing racial justice and equitable outcomes for people and communities of color.
  • Local leaders demonstrate commitment to the community by championing issues and efforts beyond the scope of their own roles and agencies.
  • The community presents opportunities for investment in all the following program areas: Families, Education, and Youth.


We support comprehensive programs that safeguard equitable access to concrete services such as food, shelter, childcare, and safety.


We support youth development organizations that provide safe spaces for youth to explore their interests and aspirations, build confidence and resilience, and solidify a commitment to lifelong learning and community engagement.


We fund initiatives within schools and school districts to provide equitable learning for all students, particularly students of color and those living in poverty.

Supporting Programs

Through our active engagement in communities, we often learn about critical needs and opportunities that lie outside our main program areas.

Recent grants

Rou Dalagurr Food Sovereignty Lab and Traditional Ecological Knowledges Institute

To support hands-on learning and community collaboration to elevate Indigenous knowledge and sustainable food practices.

Abolitionist Teaching Network

To support seasoned community organizers to work alongside teachers to build more socially-just schools.