A Primer Course in Doheny Foundation Grantmaking

The Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation contributes around $8 million each year to Los Angeles-area nonprofits working to advance education, health, medicine, religion, and vulnerable populations. The foundation supports about 300 different organizations each year, and funding is almost exclusively limited to Los Angeles and the surrounding communities. 

If you don't much about this funder, here's a quick primer. 

Lesson 1: Grants Have Strong Religious Overtones

Throughout her life, Carrie Estelle Doheny was a deeply religious woman and a devout Catholic. In fact, she was elevated to the rank of Papal Countess by Pope Pius XII in 1939. When Doheny established her private foundation in 1949, she expressed her desire for the foundation to continue on after she was gone, supporting charities close to her heart and aligned with her devotion. Pretty much all Doheny education grants go towards Catholic schools and there’s an entire priority area dedicated to supporting evangelism and missions of the Catholic Church.

But don’t write Doheny off as an exclusively religious funder. Even though lots of grants have religious overtones, there are plenty of non-religious grantees as well. For example, Doheny recently gave $52,000 to Homeboy Industries to support its job training program for high-risk former gang members. Strictly secular nonprofits should look into Doheny’s support for hospitals and convalescent care facilities, health programs for seniors and children, and aid programs that promote literacy and self-reliance.

Lesson 2: Almost All Grants Stay in Los Angeles

As a general rule, almost all Doheny grants stay in Los Angeles and surrounding communities. On a rare occasion, the foundation will support an organization with headquarters in other cities if the program goals closely align with the overall strategy. Doheny never supports causes outside of the United States.

Lesson 3: Unsolicited Grant Inquires Are Accepted

Grant requests are considered at monthly board meetings that take place on the last Friday of each month except September. You can apply for a Doheny grant online, but read through the foundation’s Application Tips before getting started. Most of these local grants fall between $5,000 and $50,000 each.

Lesson 4: Long-term Relationships Take Precedence

Like many funders, the Doheny Foundation likes to support organizations with which it has a long-standing history. Of the approximately 300 different organizations that receive Doheny support each year, most of them have been connected with the foundation for over a decade. This is a funder that prefers recurring funding over one-time grants. That approach can make it difficult for new grantees to get in the door, but keep in mind that the foundation does support about 300 different organizations each year. And if you do get in the door, there's a good chance of ongoing support. 

Related - Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation: Los Angeles Grants