Robert D. Kern, founder of Generac Power Systems, created the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Family Foundation. It primarily supports education policy and school choice efforts, including supporting programs at Christian colleges and seminaries and programs in secondary schools, with an emphasis on increasing engineering education programs.
The Kern Family Foundation has provided support to public policy organizations, including the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, Acton Institute, and Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and the left-leaning teacher training program Teach for America. 
Robert D. Kern created Generac Power Systems in 1959. The endowment for the Kern Family Foundation comes from the partial sale of Generac to Briggs and Stratton in 1999 and its takeover by a private equity firm in 2006. 
The Kern Family Foundation is one of the two largest private foundations in Wisconsin, along with the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Urban Milwaukee columnist Michael Horne noted in 2014 that the Bradley and Kern Foundations “share interests in conservative policies, with the Bradley being more political and secular, while the Kern tends toward the social and religious.” 
In 2008, the Bradley and Kern Foundations, collaborating with the Walton Family Foundation, supported a campaign that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sais was “aimed at increasing positive opinions” of school choice in Milwaukee. 
Center-right organizations receiving Kern Family Foundation grants in 2018 include the Acton Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. 
Kern Family Grants
Some of Robert Kern’s grants are personal. Kern grew up in Osage, Iowa and left in 1943 at age 18. In 2007 Kern donated $1 million as part of a campaign to fund an arts center in his hometown. Kern wrote the check himself. “You don’t get a lot of $1 million checks that are handwritten,” fundraiser Terry Hinrichs told the Des Moines Register. 
Another early grant of $1 million went to the American Baptist Assembly, a conference center in Green Lake, Wisconsin that both Robert and Patricia Kern attended in the 1940s.  The Kern Family Foundation regularly supports Christian colleges and seminaries.
The Kern Family Foundation made its largest grant of $67 million to the Mayo Clinic. In 1930, Mayo Clinic treated five-year-old Robert Kern as a charity case because his father was a pastor. The grant was used to create the Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery at the clinic. 
The foundation also supports the Medical College of Wisconsin. A 2009 grant of $10 million was the largest in the college’s history but was topped in 2017 by a $37.9 million jointly given by the Kern Family Foundation and the Kern family personally to support reforms in medical education. 
Another focus of the Kern Family Foundation is to reform engineering education to increase America’s supply of engineers. In a 2007 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kern, who has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Illinois, said “there’s a gross shortage of engineering talent in this country” and added that when running Generac he had to hire engineers from China, Japan, and Great Britain because he could not find enough talented engineers in the United States. 
Among the organizations the Kern Family Foundation supports in its engineer-training effort is Project Lead The Way, which supports engineering education in elementary and secondary schools and says that the foundation’s grants support “the value of work, developing the formation of good character” and “instilling an entrepreneurial mindset.”  Project Lead The Way received a $4 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation in 2018. Kern Family Foundation, 2018 Form 990.