Who and What We Fund

father and child smiling

We fund 501(c)3 non-profit organizations, public schools and school districts. We do not fund individual, partisan or religious projects.

Grant Programs

Cowell maintains three main grants programs and two supporting programs.

Across all programs, the funding guidelines incorporate four themes:

  • Racial Equity
  • Economic Advancement
  • Community Health
  • Resident Voice & Agency

Main programs:


We support comprehensive programs that safeguard equitable access to concrete services such as food, shelter, childcare, and safety. We fund programs and community-building efforts that help families build on their strengths and increase their self-efficacy, and that implement trauma-responsive practices. We encourage programs that honor lived experiences and incorporate resident voices in the design, implementation, and governance of family-support services.

Examples of grant-funded activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Family resource centers that promote physical health and wellness, child development, and parenting;
  • Organizations that build pathways for families to attain financial literacy, employment, and economic mobility;
  • Community-organizing initiatives focused on emerging issues prioritized and led by residents.


We believe that high-quality public schools, available to all, are essential for society to thrive.

We fund initiatives within schools and school districts to provide equitable learning for all students, particularly students of color and those living in poverty. We support engaging students in relevant, immersive learning that prepares them for college, career, and citizenship, equipping them to help solve complex challenges in their communities and the world.  We also invest in organizations outside of school districts that, along with community residents, hold public schools to account and help them improve.

Examples of grant-funded activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Efforts within schools to improve teaching and academic support, particularly for underserved students, by fostering teamwork, adaptation, and organizational learning;
  • Organizing efforts among students and families to effect positive changes in their schools and expand learning opportunities;
  • Programs promoting reconciliation and mental and emotional health among students and educators;
  • Outdoor education and stewardship programs that link academics to life and deepen students’ understanding of the environment, climate, and community health.


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 prioritize programs focused on the mental health and well-being of young people and supporting their agency and leadership, as well as their readiness for higher education and careers. We support organizations implementing trauma-responsive practices in their programs and services for youth.

Examples of grant-funded activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Addressing the mental health and well-being of students through school-based wellness centers;
  • Providing afterschool and/or summer programming that engages youth academically and in special interests such as the performing arts;
  • Developing youth leadership, training them in community organizing skills, and supporting them to create solutions for their communities around issues such as educational equity, racial justice, and environmental health.

Supporting programs:

Leadership & Organizational Health

Cowell commonly funds the direct costs of delivering services and operating programs for community residents; but we are keenly aware that the scope and quality of those services, and ultimately their effectiveness, depend on the vitality of our grantee organizations. Accordingly, grantees in the Families, Education, and Youth program areas may inquire about complementary grants through the Leadership & Organizational Health program.

In addition, Cowell supports organizations whose mission and core capability is leadership development. See Exploratory & Resource Capacity-Building Grants for more on these types of grants.

Community Resources

Through our active engagement in communities, we often learn about critical needs and opportunities that lie outside our main program areas. For that purpose, we maintain a budget for responsive grants in communities where we are active. This complementary program is necessarily broad, but likely areas of focus include:

  • Affordable housing construction and preservation;
  • Small business and workforce development;
  • Access to banking services, credit, and other supports for economic security;
  • Neighborhood infrastructure such as parks, gardens, and greenways.


Learn more about Grantee Communities and Recent Grants.