Applicants can complete an application here.  Applicants can request between $500 and $5,000, and applications will be accepted between January 1 and February 15 of any given year.

Only nonprofits located in Washoe County, Nevada; Ada County, Idaho; and, the North County area of San Diego County, California will be considered.

The Foundation prefers to grant funds to organizations that are local and that do not have access to large funding sources.  There are no matching grant requirements.  However, we are happy to award monies that might be matched by others.


The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation awards grants to programs that provide direct service to help with the implementation or expansion of programs that promote: 

  • literacy for children who are below grade level or experiencing difficulty reading
  • literacy, STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) for preschool, primary and secondary school-aged students
  • development of reading and writing skills at all age levels

When reviewing applications, we rely heavily on the following criteria:

  • Fit with our Mission
  • How significant our role will be to the project or program
  • The number of people impacted
  • Creativity
  • Need

Grants are made only to nonprofit organizations certified as tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and are classified as “not a private foundation” under Section 509(a). Eligible public charities include the full range of charitable organizations, including educational, museums, libraries, governmental institutions, arts organizations, and publicly supported charitable organizations formed for charitable purposes.

While the Foundation may occasionally provide grants for equipment or books alone, strong preference will be given to applications that incorporate project or program elements.  The Foundation also prefers to award grants to organizations that do not have access to large fundraising budgets and are local in nature.  Preference is given to small, targeted, low-budget programs and organizations that have limited outside resources from which to draw.

We prefer to not give funds for events that last just one to two days.


The Foundation does not provide funding for:

  • Annual funds, galas, or other special-event fundraising activities
  • Capital campaigns/renovation projects
  • Debt reduction
  • Programs outside of the United States
  • Loans, scholarships, fellowships or grants to individuals
  • Dues or membership fees
  • Dissertations or student research projects
  • Indirect/administrative costs
  • Sectarian religious activities, political lobbying or legislative activities
  • Institutions that discriminate on the basis of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation in policy or in practice
  • Other reasons that are not within the exempt purposes of the Foundation

Reporting Requirements for Recipients

Evaluating the progress of our grantees is a vital part of our work.  Honest assessment helps the Foundation gain useful insights into how we are contributing to communities we serve.  In order to assure we receive this important feedback, we require recipients of grants to submit a report outlining the results achieved.

A final report must be submitted no later than May 1 one the year after the grant was received.  

Reports should include the following:

  • A brief description of the activities that were undertaken, and the degree to which they were completed.
  • Results achieved through the activities, including unanticipated outcomes or learning from the work.
  • A brief financial summary for the project detailing how funds were spent.

If the organization plans to apply for a grant in the year after they receive one, they should provide an interim report by December 31 of the year when they were granted funds.

Reports can be submitted via email to

Examples of Successful Applications

Get In The Act! Arts in Action

Get in the Act!  Arts in Action is a non-profit in Stateline, Nevada that received multiple awards from the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation.  They present a creative “Science Theater” program in elementary schools with titles like “Weather on the Move,” “Light and Sound” and “Force and Motion”.  These participative sessions help advance STEM understanding through an artistic lens.  They deliver programs to many children with a very efficient budget.  One year they delivered four lessons to 190 students with a budget of $3,250.

Raising a Reader Aspen to Parachute

This organization has also received a number of grants from the Foundation for numerous creative programs aimed at increasing literacy and reading among young children.  Their “Libromat” program aimed to increase access to children’s books for low-income families by installing a collection of books, literacy materials and brain-based materials from Vroom in the Cajun Cleaners Laundromat in Glenwood Springs.

Our funds were used to buy books, shelves and pay for staff time to refresh the book offering over time.  An article from the Glenwood Spring Post Independent about the “Libromat” can be found here: Link

Roaring Fork Conservancy

Roaring Fork Conservancy in Basalt, Colorado has been a frequent recipient of Bessie Minor Swift Foundation grants.  We’re highlighting two of them – the creation of a book highlighting Dee Dee the Fryingpan River Dipper and the creation of a “Watershed Pen Pal” program.

The book Dee Dee the Fryingpan River Dipper was written and edited by Roaring Fork Conservancy staff and illustrated by Roaring Fork Conservancy Staff and Students.  The story, told in poetic verse, highlights the story of a small gray bird, the American Dipper, that dives into the river to catch its food – including all kinds of bugs.  It provides quite a science lesson by pointing out the adaptations that make this small bird suitable for both living on land and swimming in the river. It encourages students to preserve the river environment so they can enjoy the river far into the future.  Our funds were used for program delivery in elementary schools and libraries and for copies of the books donated in each location.  They expected to deliver the program to over 500 students.  

The “Watershed Pen Pal” program connected students across the continental divide (from Basalt Middle School to Aurora Public Schools) and helped them understand where water comes from and where it travels.  Our funds supported set up of the program, purchase of supplies and development of instructions used to teach 16 classes.  The Mountain West News Bureau of NPR recently did a story on this program, and you can find it here: Link

Pitkin County Library

The Pitkin County Library in Aspen purchased an electric book bike to distribute books to people who may not be library patrons. The bike also allowed for demonstration of the library’s online resources via a wi-fi hotspot. The book bike traveled to festivals and public gathering places.

Contact Us


Sterling Foundation Management

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Suite 450

Reston, VA 20191