The Many Ways the Hearst Foundations Support Women

The goal of the Hearst Foundations, inspired by founder William Randolph Hearst, is to “ensure that people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to build healthy, productive, and inspiring lives.” Yes, Hearst Foundations are committed to all people, but their giving history shows an affinity for programs that strategically support women.

First, to clear up why they are the Hearst Foundations, plural: Technically speaking, William Randolph Hearst established an east coast foundation in 1945 and a west coast foundation in 1948. Their missions were (and remain) the same, as are the granting stipulations. Whether your organization resides east or west of the Mississippi River is the only difference.

Regardless of what side of the Mississippi you're on, these foundations are staunchly committed to women and women's empowerment, through the context of opportunities to carry its key adjectives—"healthy, "productive," and "inspiring"—to fruition.

The Hearst Foundations have four giving areas: Culture, Education, Health, and Social Service. The latter three have a strong granting record when it comes to women-focused programs (which isn't to say that a Culture couldn't fit the bill, only that it hasn't recently).

Across the board, the foundations are looking to support underserved communities, but are also looking to do so with a large footprint; they want to fund organizations that serve “large demographic and/or geographic constituencies.” They also state as their priority organizations that “enable engagement by young people and create a lasting impression.” Engagement of "young people" here relates not only to serving children, but also the foundations' desire to fund post-secondary opportunities and professional development.

As comes with a desire to partner with organizations that have a big footprint, the Hearst Foundations expect you to have a big budget. No one with less than $1 million in annual operations is eligible to apply, and the averages are considerably higher (though they vary across the four giving sectors).

And no matter which of the four sectors your program for women lands, the Hearst Foundations want it to differentiate itself from its peers—not just in approach, but also in terms of results. They also place importance on results by expecting “evidence of sustainability” for programs beyond their own support. They regularly give both program and—more notably—capital support (and a limited amount of general and endowment support) to 501(c)3 organizations.

Here's a recent sampling of grantees focused on women:

Education

  • $200,000 to Mary Baldwin College (Staunton, VA) "toward a leadership program educating women to assume positions of leadership"
  • $50,000 to Grace Outreach (Bronx, NY) "to support education and career programs for low-income women"
  • $50,000 to the Dunwoody College of Technology (Minneapolis, MN) "yo support the Women in Technical Careers Initiative."

Health

Social Service

  • $75,000 to The Women's Home (Houston, TX) "toward the Mabee Foundation $1 million match to construct the WholeLife Service Center that will serve low-income women and their families"
  • $75,000 to Family Rescue (Chicago, IL) "to support the Safe at Home Project for victims of domestic violence"
  • $75,000 to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (Washington, D.C.) "toward business development services for low- to moderate-income women and minority entrepreneurs."

Remarkably for a funder playing on such a large field, the Hearst Foundations has an open online application process. They do, however, alert potential new applicants that 80 percent of their funding goes to previous recipients. On the flipside of this daunting statistic, if you do make the cut for initial funding through the Hearst Foundations, the odds are in your favor that you’ll continue receiving it. But you’ll have to wait at least three years until that happens; the foundations stipulate that as the “waiting period” between grants.

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