Hearst Foundations: Grants for College Arts and Humanities

OVERVIEW: The Hearst Foundations have an overarching mission to “build healthy, productive and inspiring lives.” They seek to achieve this by supporting well-established nonprofit organizations that operate in the realms of culture, education, health, and social service. Hearst also has signature programs that give college scholarships to undergraduate journalists and high school student government leaders. Eligibility for grant support is limited to organizations with operating budgets of $1 million or higher, and most recipients have annual budgets of at least $10 million. 

IP TAKE: Higher ed arts and humanities are not exclusive Hearst priorities, but both receive support through its Education program, and the foundations have shown a penchant for college journalism departments. With an open application process, and substantial backing available, it’s certainly worth taking a swing at Hearst funding. 

PROFILE: 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.” To this end, the foundations give 25 percent of their coffers to cultural institutions throughout the United States.

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.

In both cases, the foundations are staunchly committed to supporting culture, including the arts. Fortunately for higher ed grantseekers, one of the foundations’ other programmatic focus areas - education - means that grants are sometimes given at the intersection of these two priorities.

In terms of priorities for Hearst's Culture program, the foundations look for “cultural institutions that offer meaningful programs in the arts and sciences, prioritizing those which enable engagement by young people and create a lasting and measurable impact.” The Education program, meanwhile, seeks out “educational institutions demonstrating uncommon success in preparing students to thrive in a global society,” with higher ed being the main focus. 

The Hearst Foundations also look large in terms of scope. In particular, they want to fund organizations that serve “large demographic and/or geographic constituencies.” They are also looking for organizations that differentiate themselves from their peers in terms of both programming, results, and “evidence of sustainability” beyond the grant award period.

Even with a concern for both culture and higher education, there have been few grant recipients in recent years who have earned awards at the intersection of arts and postsecondary ed.

But grantseekers shouldn’t lose heart just yet. A little digging into the foundations’ grants database reveals a handful of higher ed performing arts grants, including:

  • $100,000 to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA, “Toward the new Playhouse for the Conservatory of the Performing Arts”;
  • $50,000 to the Music Department of Lafayette College in Easton, PA, “to support artist residencies with a focus on women composers, new works, and community outreach”;
  • $80,000 to Louisiana State University to support "scholarships for minority students in the College of Art + Design";
  • $100,000 in support of the New World Fellowship at the New World Symphony, a program open only to musicians “currently enrolled in or recently graduated from distinguished music programs”;
  • $50,000 to the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in New York, NY, “Toward education programs for K-12 and college & graduate students”; and
  • $75,000 to the Berklee College of Music, to underwrite “William Randolph Hearst Scholarships for students in the Music Technology Division.”

Opportunities are a bit more open for higher ed humanities programs through the Education program. Most higher ed funding goes towards scholarship programs, especially for students from economically disadvantaged or statistically underrepresented backgrounds, but there are recent humanities awards have supported initiatives like teacher development programs, Holocaust research, "training and development for humanities faculty," facility construction for a Communications department, and - unsurprising considering Hearst's personal history - a number of journalism departments. 

Speaking of journalism, Hearst’s signature Journalism Awards Program rewards journalism majors in monthly writing, broadcast news, multimedia, and photojournalism (the only category where applicants need not be journalism majors) for “outstanding performance in college-level journalism, with matching grants to the students’ schools.” You can view monthly and national winners, see a list of participating schools, and learn more about how to apply from the program’s website.

Hearst’s other signature program, the United States Senate Youth Program, selects two high school student leaders (juniors or seniors) from each state (plus Washington, D.C. and the DoD Education Activity) for an all expenses paid “week in Washington experiencing their national government in action,” in addition to a $10,000 per-student scholarship. Eligibility and application information application can be found here.

That said, Hearst funding is not for everyone. More specifically, the majority of their funding goes to previous recipients, and they require applicants to have an annual operating budget of more than $1 million. In fact, the foundations report that in recent years, most of the culture organizations they’ve funded have had budgets of over $10 million.

Yet remarkably for a funder working on such a large playing field, the Hearst Foundations have an open online application process. Moreover, 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.

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