In 2007, Liz Simons and Mark Heising created the Heising-Simons Foundation, a family foundation aiming to harness the philanthropists’ giving power and “advance sustainable solutions in climate and clean energy, enable groundbreaking research in science, enhance the education of our youngest learners, and support human rights for all people.”
Simons is a former teacher with a background in Spanish-bilingual and English as a second language (ESL) education, and now serves as board chair of the foundation. Simons’ leadership and involvement with several nonprofit boards and initiatives highlight a passion for education and youth justice, consistent with the Heising-Simons Foundation’s mission as well. Philanthropy may just be in Simons’ blood. Her father James Simons and his wife, Marilyn, are regulars on Forbes’ top 50 givers in America list, a list which now also includes Liz Simons and Mark Heising.
Heising is the founder and managing director of Medley Partners, the firm that manages investments not just for the Heising-Simons Foundation but also the Simons Foundation, Foundation for a Just Society, and Sea Change Foundation. Heising is a board member of the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Environmental Defense Fund. The most recent addition to the board is daughter Caitlin Heising. The younger Heising, who graduated from Brown in 2012, has cultivated a powerful philanthropic presence, and is a founding member of the Maverick Collective. She has leadership roles at both the Human Rights Watch and Peer Health Exchange in San Francisco.
Since its inception, the foundation has distributed more than $233 million in grants in these program areas, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. The family and the foundation’s staff team bring the “start up” attitude to the foundation’s work, the foundation’s CEO and President Deanna Gomby said in a 2016 interview, which is unsurprising given that Silicon Valley is home for the organization.
The foundation’s website affirms the organizational belief that “education is the route to opportunity.” It is dedicated to finding sustainable and research-driven solutions in key problem areas, and in “engaging and uniting stakeholders” around its work.
Major Program Categories: The foundation supports projects in the areas of climate and clean energy, education, human rights, science, and local community projects in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
In 2016, over 50 percent of the foundation’s giving was directed to education programs. The programs it supports aim to “prepare children from birth through age 8 for school and life,” and giving focuses on components of early childhood education that the foundation sees as frequently overlooked, such as family engagement, dual language learning and early math. In 2016, the foundation’s education grants offered general support as well as specific project funding. Grantees included Alliance for Early Success, which was awarded $1,800,000 for general support, and California Children and Families Commission, which received $10,000 for the Child Health, Education and Care Summit.
Human rights is another program priority for Heising-Simons that directly impacts children, youth and their families. This category encompasses efforts around “undocumented communities, people impacted by the justice system, women and girls.” Ant-Recidivism Coalition, National Immigration Law Center and College Track are just a handful of organizations to have received grants from the foundation in this area.
How to Apply: As of publication, the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals. The foundation’s “what’s new” section of the website is a helpful source of information about the foundation’s goals and work, as ways to think about connecting in the future.
Name of Foundation: The Heising-Simons Foundation
Location: Los Altos, CA
Coverage Area: National
Subject Area: Climate & Clean Energy, Community, Education, Human Rights, Science
Assets: $370,095,113 (2015)
Last Year Total Giving: $54,837,439 (2016)
Recent News and Grantmaking: