Knight Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Knight Foundation was built upon the success of the Knight brothers' newspapers, and it gives funding priority to regions of the country in which the newspapers had a presence. The foundation gives not only to journalism causes but also to furthering democracy and improving education.

FUNDING AREAS: Journalism, media innovation, community democracy, and education

IP TAKE: The Knight Foundation has historically awarded the most funds to arts organizations. Although Knight sends a lot of grant money to the Bay Area, organizations there are competing with 25 other regions around the country. The foundation does not have a grantmaking program specific to the Bay Area. Grantseekers should go over the programs Knight offers to determine which one best suits their grant needs.

PROFILE: Charles Landon Knight, publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal from 1907 to 1933, made a habit of helping financially strapped college kids pay for tuition. Based on a commitment to education, Charles's sons started the Knight Foundation after his death and expanded it to support social services, culture, and journalism causes. After the foundation was established in 1940, most of the contributions came from Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal and Florida's Miami Herald. However, after the Knights' mother, Clara, passed away and left her inheritance, worth $5.2 million in 1965, to the foundation, no further newspaper support was necessary.

In the early 1990s, the Knight Foundation designated 26 communities that were eligible for grant funding because the Knight brothers owned newspapers in those places. These 26 communities include the Bay Area and other mostly Southeastern and Midwestern cities. The foundation is headquartered in Miami and and has three program areas: journalism and media innovation, community development, and the arts.

If your nonprofit wants to pitch a journalism program, it should be working to further Internet access, journalism education, freedom of expression, or international distribution. Community development proposals should be for programs that engage individuals in change and focus on young social entrepreneurial leaders in the Bay Area. However, the foundation awards a good chunk of funding to arts organizations. To give yourself the best chance, make sure your arts grant proposal brings art into people's everyday lives by utilizing technology.

The foundation tends to give out more than 500 grants each year. Knight also awards grants to foundation-administered programs and loan-related investments. In addition to the three primary focus areas, Knight funds special initiative programs for black male engagement, library digitation programs, and start-up tech projects. Don't bother sending in a proposal for scholarships, debt payment, or political activities.

The Knight Foundation is incredibly open to new ideas and welcomes unsolicited grant proposals. Grant proposals for the Knight News Challenge, Knight Arts Challenge, and Knight Community Information Challenge must be sent in through a separate process that's detailed on the foundation's website.

Knight grantmaking has been trending towards startup nonprofits and journalism initiatives. Knight has faith that your startup nonprofit can move past the economic downturn and operate at break-even or better, even after the grant money has run out. The foundation pledged $1 million to a new journalism education push, which will create a new digital textbook and fund new reporting methods. But check out the foundation's What We Fund page to learn more about what currently matters to Knight. At the end of a recent year, the foundation reported over $2.3 billion in assets and 599 new grants awarded.

All you need is five minutes to get the application process started on Knight's grant portal. When you access the online letter of inquiry system, you'll fill out a brief form that summarizes your project and explains why you're the best organization for the job. You'll hear back from the Knight staff within a month if they're interested. To keep up with recent happenings in the foundation's grantmaking, follow the Knight Blog and direct general inquiries to 305-908-2600 or


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