Grantmaking in I.A. O’Shaughnessy’s time was largely focused on his personal charitable interests. Gifts from both the Foundation and his personal income were so numerous that it would be difficult to catalog all of them. What characterized his giving was a swift and direct personal response to perceived needs.
I.A.’s commitment to Catholic higher education was strong, with substantial grants made to the College of St. Thomas and the College of St. Catherine, both in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He also supported other educational institutions, arts organizations, hospitals, medical research, ecumenism, and many programs for youth, the blind, and others in need.
One of I.A.’s most satisfying achievements was the creation of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies, located between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The theological research center encourages Christian scholars and those of other faiths from all over the world to study religious issues and overcome differences.
Today the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation has two kinds of granting programs: Focused Grantmaking and Regional Grantmaking.
What We Fund
The mission of the Foundation, broadly speaking, is to make grants for the common good, grants that enrich communities and improve people’s lives. We believe in the power of education as a means to these ends. Not only does it enrich people’s lives by broadening their understanding of the world, it is an aid to the development of each individual’s full potential. And by increasing human knowledge and transmitting accumulated learning, education supports the advancement of human society and ultimately promotes the good of mankind as a whole.
Every child has the innate capacity and drive to learn, to explore, and find his or her place in the world. Given access to quality education, one that supports the formation of academic, social and critical thinking skills, the child will grow and develop, becoming a contributing member of our society.
Not every child in our nation has access to the quality educational resources that would foster this growth and development. Minority and low-income students often have significantly different educational opportunities simply by virtue of their race and/or social status. The inequity and unrealized potential that this represents is a terrible loss, not only to individuals, but to communities and society at large, and serves to perpetuate the very conditions that led to that loss. Education has traditionally been seen as the path to greater opportunity for all, but educational inequality must be addressed first for this to be fully realized.
To this end, we have chosen to focus our grantmaking on efforts that seek to discover and employ effective practices in creating strong and nurturing educational environments for those who currently do not have such access. We fund organizations that use strategies to create good schools where they are lacking—educating parents to be a help to their children starting in the earliest years, training excellent teachers and school leaders who will implement a challenging curriculum, supporting the whole child by removing obstacles resulting from living in poverty as students enter and move through educational levels.
In supporting this work we hope to contribute, not only to individual well-being, but to the enrichment of society as a whole, and ultimately to the good of mankind. In the words of Kofi Annan, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of all progress, in every society, in every family.”
In order to locate the organizations, programs and practices that are most promising in making change in support of the goals outlined above, the Foundation engages in intensive research through universities, education best practice resources, grantmaking and non-profit practice groups, and other independent research entities. We use this information, in addition to our own grantmaking experience, to develop an annual list of organizations we will invite to submit proposals for consideration.
The Foundation is committed to using a carefully researched invitation process in order to identify high-quality grantee candidates. In a field as large as education we feel that this process is critical for efficient and effective grantmaking. This approach allows us to seek out organizations that are likely to align well with the Foundation’s current grantmaking goals, and thus only require the laborious process of grant-writing from those organizations and programs that have a higher likelihood of receiving funding from the Foundation.
Each year as the Foundation makes its grants, we learn from grantees through site visits and reports on their programs, from our own research, and from the work of others. This has enabled us to deepen our understanding of and appreciation for the issues involved in this complex field. We continually reflect on these outcomes, successes, and challenges and adapt our focused grantmaking accordingly.
We at the Foundation are deeply grateful to the non-profit and public education organizations we fund, and to leaders and innovators in the education field for their commitment, passion and intelligence in continuously working to create better educational resources for the children of our country, particularly those whose needs are greatest.
“Nonprofits embody the best spirit and values of our nation. They help millions of individuals and families daily. They protect, feed, heal, shelter, educate, and nurture our bodies and spirits. Nonprofits also give shape to our boldest dreams, highest ideals, and noblest causes. They turn our beliefs into action – as promoters of democracy, champions of the common good, incubators of innovation, laboratories of leadership, protectors of taxpayers, responders in times of trouble, stimulators of the economy, and weavers of community fabric.”
—National Council of Nonprofits
The Foundation Board of Directors recognizes the opportunity that the work of the great number and variety of nonprofits across the country presents as a path toward fulfilling the foundation’s mission to enrich communities and improve people’s lives. These organizations often work at the local level, providing urgent help where needed, fostering innovative solutions to problems, enriching the cultural life of the community, or furthering access to educational and economic success. The effectiveness of nonprofits stems from their relationship with the communities they serve. These organizations are often well positioned to understand the complexities of the issues facing their communities and how to best meet their needs. Taken as a whole, the dedicated, often strategically targeted, work of these organizations can collectively be seen to promote the advancement and wellbeing of mankind—from the individual, to the family and society, to humanity as whole.
The Board allocates a certain portion of its annual grantmaking funds to support the variety of work done by these nonprofits and relies on the Directors and family members to recommend funding opportunities. The Foundation Directors and family members live in various communities nationwide, each with its own makeup and character, needs and aspirations. First-hand knowledge of and involvement in their local communities allow board and family members to appreciate their needs and be responsive to creative, timely solutions.
This approach broadens the scope and reach of the Foundation’s grantmaking and allows for a more immediate response to societal needs and endeavors. Many of these grants are smaller and support the operations of organizations where such a grant can make a critical difference. The areas of funding are many, including education, the arts, community service, special projects and services to those living in poverty. Funding recommendations are made by individual board and family members, and reflect the unique perspective of each, but are always guided by the mission and values of the Foundation.