Since its formation in 1953, the Bush Foundation has provided more than $800 million in grants and fellowships to improve the well-being of people in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations.
Higher education has held a significant position in the Bush Foundation strategy from the Foundation’s beginning. In 1954, the Foundation made its first contribution toward education when it created a $25,000 pool for scholarships called the Fund for Scholars. From 1970 to 2008, the Foundation awarded nearly 1,000 grants for higher education, totaling more than $205 million. Significant grant programs included funding for the University of Minnesota, regional colleges and universities, fully accredited tribal colleges and private historically black colleges and universities.
Another education milestone was the Bush Educators Program, which between 1976 and 2000 provided more than 720 K-12 principals, superintendents and other school leaders with opportunities to improve their skills.
Throughout its history, the Foundation supported a wide range of public broadcasting initiatives, including audience development and sustainability, start-up support for community and Native American stations and capital campaign contributions. It also focused on "environmental humanism" through its ecological health grant program.
The Bush Foundation also contributed significantly toward the advancement of many human services fields, including early childhood development, curbing domestic violence (the Foundation supported the first battered women's shelter in the country) and support for immigrants and refugees.
In 2007, the Foundation changed focus to its Goals for a Decade—to increase educational achievement, to support the self-determination of 23 Native nations and to develop leadership and engage communities.