According to BC based Foundation Search, there are over 112,000 registered public and private foundations in the United States with almost a trillion dollars under management and they're required to give away 5% of those assets each year in order to retain their tax exempt status.
So why can't rocket scientists access these funds? Well, maybe they can...
|Foundation grants related to "Aerospace Education." Images c/o Foundation Search.|
A quick search of publicly available tax data from US based foundation grants over the past ten years which include the keywords "aerospace education" in the grant description indicate that $3M USD's (divided up among 62 grants) has been provided to various organizations by US based foundations interested in encouraging "aerospace education."
It seems that rocket scientists, at least those with students and interested in "aerospace education" are able to access these funds.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has also accessed foundation funding.
|NASA foundation funding. Images c/o Foundation Search.|
Publicly available tax data indicates that at least $5.6M USD's (divided up among 450 grants) has been provided to either NASA or various NASA subsidiaries over the past ten years by US based foundations. While this doesn't seem like a lot for an organization with a $17B USD annual budget like NASA, it's worth noting that the search covered only foundation grants which included the term "NASA" in the grant title. The true total funding from foundations providing money to NASA (but not using the term "NASA" in the grant title) is likely to be much higher.
|The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has provided grants through out the world.. Images c/o Foundation Search.|
Best of all for Canadians, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (which provided the two largest NASA grants to "build community" and "support education") also provided funding throughout the world during that same period. The foundation provided 52 grants totaling $2.29M to US based organizations and a further 21 grants totaling $433M CDN over the same period.
Canadian universities are already taking advantage of this funding channel.
|University of Western Ontario grants from US foundations over a ten year period. Images c/o Foundation Search.|
For example, the University of Western Ontario (Western) has received over $5M CDN in funding (spread among 99 grants) during the same period in which NASA received only slightly more. As well, Western (and other Canadian universities) have undoubtedly received far more money from Canadian foundations and donors than from US foundations and donors.
In essence, while the overall funding amounts are small when compared to the total budgets of the space agencies, the prospect of foundation funding is something that should not be dismissed when figuring out how to fund "rocket" science.
Money is money, no matter where it comes from.