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The Spencer Foundation


Last Updated: 2016-05-28

At A Glance

The Spencer Foundation

625 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 1600

Chicago, IL United States 60611-3109

Telephone: (312) 337-7000


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Additional Descriptor

  • Celebrity: Business

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2015-03-31)

Assets: $537,487,478

Total giving: $28,664,059






Incorporated in 1962 in IL - Founded by the late Lyle M. Spencer, who founded and served as President of Science Research Associates (SRA), a leading publisher of educational tests, guidance programs, and curriculum materials. In 1964, IBM purchased SRA. Following Mr. Spencer's death in 1968, the foundation received its major endowment and began formal grant making in 1971.

Purpose and Activities

The foundation is committed to supporting high-quality investigation of education through its research programs and to strengthening and renewing the educational research community through its fellowship and by strengthening the connections among education research, policy and practice through its communication and networking.

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:

Communications and Networking

In an effort to make progress on the foundation's ultimate goal of improving education, the foundation supports a range of communications and networking activities. Current projects include the Education Journalism Initiative, foundation events and publications, and oversight and strategic development of the foundation's web site. In addition, through its communications and networking activities the foundation works to develop new projects designed to connect Spencer-funded researchers with members of the policy and practice communities.

Employee Matching Gifts

The foundation matches employee contributions to charitable organizations broadly serving educational activities.

Lyle Spencer Research Awards:Advancing Understanding of Education Practice and Its Improvement

This program is the successor to the foundation's long-standing field-initiated major grant program. With this program, the foundation aims to reinforce its commitment to intellectually ambitious research, oriented ultimately to improving the practice of education, and independent of any particular reform agendas or methodological strictures. Annually, through a highly competitive award process, the foundation will provide research grants of up to $1,000,000 each to a small number of outstanding proposals. See foundation web site for online letter of intent (LOI). Deadline for LOI: June, 12.

NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program

This program, administered by the National Academy of Education, seeks to encourage a new generation of scholars from a wide range of disciplines and professional fields to undertake research relevant to the improvement of education. These $25,000 fellowships support individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.The fellowship is intended to support the writing of the dissertation during the last year(s) of graduate work. Stipends are to support completion of their dissertations and are to be expended within one or two years, in accordance with the work plan provided by the candidate in their application. Inquiries should be addressed to: The National Academy of Education, 500 Fifth St., N.W., No. 333, Washington, DC 20001. E-mail:

NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowships

These postdoctoral fellowships, administered by the National Academy of Education, support early career scholars working in critical areas of education research. This nonresidential postdoctoral fellowship funds proposals that make significant scholarly contributions to the field of education. The program also develops the careers of its recipients through professional development activities involving National Academy of Education members. Applicants must have received their PhD, EdD, or equivalent research degree between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2013. Non-US citizens are welcome to apply. Fellows receive $55,000 for one academic year of research, or $27,500 for each of two contiguous years, working half-time. Inquiries should be addressed to: The National Academy of Education, 500 Fifth St., N.W., No. 333, Washington, DC 20001. E-mail:

Research Grants Program

The foundation's research grants are organized under four broad areas of inquiry: 1) The Relation Between Education and Social Opportunity; 2) Organizational Learning in Schools, School Systems, and Higher Education Systems; 3) Teaching, Learning, and Instructional Resources; and 4) Purposes and Values of Education. Also accepted are proposals that do not fit one of the four areas listed through the Field-Initiated Proposal program. The foundation also provides support in areas designated as Strategic Initiatives. Current Strategic Initiatives include: The New Civics; Data Use and Educational Improvement; and Philosophy in Educational Policy and Practice. See foundation web site for specific areas of interest within education research and application guidelines.

Fields of Interest

  • Education
  • Elementary and secondary education
Population Groups
  • Academics
  • Children and youth
  • Students

Financial Data

Year ended 2015-03-31

Assets: $537,487,478 (market value)

Gifts received: $110,000

Expenditures: $43,479,080

Total giving: $28,664,059

Qualifying distributions: $34,418,094