The Schlessman Family Foundation was founded in 1956 by Gerald L. and Florence M. Schlessman. It was established to provide charitable support in granting opportunities for children and adults hindered by economic status, physical or mental challenges, or requiring additional educational opportunities with the intent to enable them to become self-sufficient, productive members of their community. Since its inception, the Foundation has contributed over $54 million to more than 800 charities.

Upon the death of their parents, Lee E. Schlessman and Susan Schlessman Duncan assumed the leadership of the foundation. In 2014 eight new trustees, all direct descendants of Gerald and Florence Schlessman, were added. Currently, the trustees are:

Lee E. Schlessman
Susan M. Duncan
Gary L. Schlessman
Sandra L. Garnett
Dolores J. Schlessman

Jennifer Schlessman Bonicelli
Michael D. Fredericks
Aaron T. Garnett
Colin M. Garnett
Benjamin T. Garnett

Lauren M. Watel
Eric A. Bennett
Margaret Schlessman Emmerich

Today the trustees continue the mission of helping to strengthen families and assist individuals in becoming responsible, productive members of society through their charitable support.

Areas of Giving

The Schlessman Family Foundation grants funding primarily in the following areas:

  • Disadvantaged youth programs and services, especially those that foster initiative and a positive work ethic
  • Elder/Senior programs that assist in providing the necessities of life or to assist them to live independently in a safe environment by providing basic human needs
  • Food service and delivery programs
  • Special needs groups, such as handicapped, homeless families/individuals and mentally challenged
  • Established cultural institutions such as museums, libraries and zoos
  • Education programs that work to address the needs of at-risk students and improve literacy among adult learners

Restrictions and Exceptions:

  • The Schlessman Family Foundation awards grants to nonprofit organizations in the seven-county Metro Denver area -- Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties.
  • Grants are NOT made to individuals or to fund scholarships for specific individuals.
  • Start-up grants are not accepted. Organizations must have at least a two-year history of operations.
  • Support for benefits, conferences or workshops will not be granted.
  • Performing arts grants are limited.
  • Direct support is not granted to:
    • Public, private or charter schools.
    • Churches or religious organizations. However, we do fund faith-based organizations that are providing services and programs that help disadvantaged populations.

Lee E. Schlessman YMCA

Tropical Discovery at the Denver Zoo

Application Process


Refer to the following for the Schlessman Family Foundation application requirements:

  • Applicants must be classified by the Internal Revenue Service as tax-exempt under Section 501(C)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Applying agencies should be located in the Metro Denver area.
  • Our foundation has no formal grant application form. We accept, but do not require, the Colorado Common Grant Application Form. Be sure to include all materials with your initial application as we will not guarantee attachments sent via separate mailings will be added to your request.
  • The Foundation accepts proposals requesting funds to support an organization’s general operating costs as well as specific program support. That is the choice of the applying organization.

Beginning in 2016 our foundation will require that proposals be submitted in two forms:

  • A hard copy of the written proposal submitted to the Foundation’s address, AND
  • An email copy submitted at

  • The Schlessman Family Foundation does fund in successive years, however, a proposal must be received each year to be eligible for consideration.

    We do not accept or respond to letters of intent or inquiry. Only full proposals will be reviewed by our trustees. Request for meetings to discuss your application are generally not granted until after a proposal is received and one or more of the trustees request such a meeting. However, Patricia Middendorf will respond to questions via email (preferred) or by phone. See contact information on last page of these guidelines.

    Proposals should include the Colorado Common Grant Application OR the following information:

    • Name and address of your organization and contact information
    • A list of officers and board of directors
    • A brief history, mission, programs and achievements of the organization
    • An organizational budget for the current year and documented budget for the project, if applying for a specific program. For organizations with assets over $500,000 we require the last two years of a financial audits.
    • A copy of the 501(C)3 IRS Determination Letter
    • The proposal should answer the following questions:
      1. What is the purpose of the request?
      2. What is the amount you are requesting?
      3. What is the need for the program or service?
      4. How will you measure the success of the program?
      5. What other sources of funding are available to this support your request?
      6. Does your organization work with any other community groups to facilitate this program or service?

    Our proposal deadline is December 31st and proposals must be postmarked on or before that date. Proposals are accepted throughout the year and should be addressed to:

    Lee E. Schlessman, President & Trustee
    Schlessman Family Foundation
    1555 Blake Street, Suite 400
    Denver, CO 80202


    The Trustees read proposals and make comments throughout the year, but final reviews and determinations are made at the annual meeting in February.

    Distributions are made once a year on March 31st. All applicants will be notified in writing whether or not their request was approved. If approved, a check will accompany the letter.

    Please do not call the Foundation office to ask why a request was denied.

    • PLEASE NOTE: The trustees do not critique proposals for public comment. The denial of a proposal may be a result of a lack of funds from the Foundation, the applying organization is not a 501(C)3, the request did not clearly fit within the Foundation's guidelines, or the organization is located outside the funding area.

    The Foundation does not publish an annual report, but a copy of the most recent tax return is available in the Foundation office for public review.


    Patricia Middendorf, Treasurer
    Schlessman Family Foundation, Inc.
    1555 Blake Street, Suite 400
    Denver, Colorado 80202

    Phone: 303-831-5683
    Fax: 303-831-5676