FAQs

Grantmaking

1. What is the Foundation’s programmatic focus?

The Foundation supports organizations addressing critical issues in the areas of Education and the Environment.

The Foundation’s Education Program focuses on training adults working with young people, both in classrooms and out-of-school settings. These grants support programs that foster character development, and equip teachers to make the shift to new standards and practices in math and science. The National Character initiative works with youth-development organizations around the country, and STEM grantmaking focuses on California.

The Foundation’s Environment Program focuses on the management, stewardship, and conservation of California’s water and land resources to support a resilient environment and economy, working to accelerate the transition to new integrated water and land management systems that benefit both people and nature.

2. Is the Foundation still accepting proposals?

The Foundation has identified virtually all of its strategic grantee partners. Proposals will continue to be accepted by invitation only.

3. Does the Foundation support organizational capacity building?

Along with program-specific outcomes, the Foundation is committed to building the capacity, adaptability, and resiliency of its grantees so that they can carry on their important work long after the Foundation’s sunset. The Foundation supports a broad range of capacity-building requests from its current grantees such as strategy development and scenario planning, management and leadership training, communication assessments, business planning, and fundraising feasibility studies and development plans. In addition, Foundation staff use the Resiliency Guide in conversations with grantees to help identify opportunities to build organizational resiliency and lessen dependency on the Foundation over time.

Spending Down

4. Why did the Foundation decide to spend down?

In 2009, the Foundation’s Board of Directors made the momentous decision to spend down by 2020, so that more could be invested in solutions over a shorter period of time. In order to maximize the Foundation’s impact, strategic work in Education and the Environment emphasizes systems change, field building, policy advocacy, and strengthening key grantees so that they can continue the work beyond the Foundation’s sunset. At a conference in 2014, President Lauren Dachs discussed why the Foundation decided to spend down further. Read her comments here.

5. When will the Foundation make its last grants?

The Foundation will close its doors at the end of 2020. Most commitments for multi-year grants will be made by mid-2017 to allow our grantee partners adequate time to implement and report on the funded work by mid-2020.

The focus of the work will continue to be on effective grantmaking in pursuit of outcomes, not simply spending the funds. If funds remain in the Foundation at the time of its close in 2020, they will be distributed to the foundations of next-generation Bechtel family members.

Consistent with Mr. Bechtel’s wishes and the Foundation’s practice to date, the Foundation will not be making endowment grants.

6. How much money does the Foundation have to spend?

Since the decision to invest all of the Foundation’s resources was made in 2009, the size of the grantmaking has increased dramatically. In 2015, the Foundation made program investments totaling close to $120 million, and approximately $160 million is projected for 2016.

7. Are you evaluating the Foundation’s work?

The Foundation is making significant investments in evaluation and knowledge building. In connection with learning and evaluation, we are guided by this statement of principles and practices:

We will invest in evaluation in order to:

  • Learn what works and what doesn’t;
  • Continuously sharpen and improve our strategy and programs;
  • Ensure accountability for use of the Foundation’s resources;
  • Build grantee capacity to measure impact; and
  • Advance knowledge in our chosen areas of focus.

In our approach to evaluation and learning, we will:

  • Lead with purpose – design evaluations with actions and decisions in mind and with an intent to ask and answer specific questions;

  • Identify the primary audiences for evaluation at the outset and tie evaluation to a communications plan;

  • Monitor comprehensively and evaluate selectively and strategically;

  • Ensure that evaluations are appropriate to the initiative being evaluated – cost effective and not unnecessarily elaborate, choosing methodologies that are well aligned with learning and improvement goals;

  • Respect grantees, program staff, and other stakeholders; involve them in planning and implementing the evaluation whenever possible;

  • Practice honesty and transparency in reporting results whether positive or negative; and

  • Collaborate with funder partners whenever practicable.

8. What will happen after 2020?

As we approach 2020, the Foundation is planning to commission a post-hoc review of the spend down so that others may learn about the consequences of our exit as well as the results of the Foundation’s years of investment in organizations and fields. And of course, there will also be final accounting, tax, and legal actions necessary to close down the Foundation.

9. Has the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation signed the Giving Pledge?

While the Foundation has not signed the Giving Pledge, it salutes those who have. The Giving Pledge was made public in 2010, and by then, Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. had already decided to transfer the bulk of his estate to the Foundation and distribute all of its assets by 2020.

About the Foundation

10. Is there a connection between the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the Bechtel Corporation?

Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., the Foundation’s founder, is the former Chairman and CEO of the Bechtel Corporation. He continues to serve on the Board of the company. However, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation is not connected with the Bechtel Corporation or its philanthropy.

11. How do I get a job at the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation?

Openings at the Foundation are posted on the Foundation’s website. Click here to view any current openings.