Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation focuses its grantmaking on the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economic performance. Within its Public Understanding of Science, Technology, & Economics program it seeks to bridge the gap between the sciences and the humanities by supporting the use of books, film, radio, television, theater, and new media to help translate scientific issues for the public through the "synergistic use of media." 

IP TAKE: The Sloan Foundation seeks to increase awareness of science and technology themes and ideas, so any creative or journalistic project must have this as its central motivation.

PROFILE: Founded in 1934 by General Motors executive Alfred Sloan, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States. It seeks to “support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology, and economic performance; and to improve the quality of American life.” Most of the foundation’s journalism grantmaking happens under its Public Understanding of Science, Technology, & Economics program.

This program seeks to "enhance people's lives by providing a better understanding of the increasingly scientific and technological environment in which we live and it aims to convey some of the challenges and rewards of the scientific and technological enterprise and of the lives of the men and women who undertake it." Some of its major grantees in this area include the Manhattan Theatre Club, Sundance Film Institute, PBS, National Public Radio, the World Science Festival, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Some past grants by Sloan under its Public Understanding of Science, Technology, & Economics program include $417,000 over 24 months to the San Francisco Film Society; $315,000 over 36 months to the American Film Institute for screenwriting and production of science and technology films by the top film students; and $550,000 over 24 months to National Public Radio Inc. to support "Planet Money's coverage of economics via multimedia journalism and enterprise radio journalism." Lists of recent projects, including books, film, and new media, supported by the foundation can be found on its website.

Sloan divides all its funding into research and non-research grants, and then further divides those categories into requests for $125,000 or less and requests for more than $125,000. There are separate proposal guidelines for each. The Public Understanding of Science, Technology, & Economics program falls under non-research grants.

The Sloan Foundation does not make grants to individuals or for-profit institutions, and the only grants it makes in the creative/performing arts are to projects that are directly related to educating the public about science, technology, or economics.

In order to begin the process, grant seekers’ organizations must submit a Letter of Inquiry that details the project’s purpose and gives a rough estimate of the cost and duration of the project. There are no deadlines for these letters and if an organization is contacted, it can proceed to submit a proposal. The website provides an assortment of tips and guidelines to help with this process.

In the areas of radio and television, Sloan gives fewer grants to small projects. Most of its grants in these mediums support established programming like NOVA and NPR shows, but that does not mean they are not open to other possibilities; however, it helps for grant seekers seeking help in these areas to be better connected. Film and books are more of an open field. Sloan has partnered with the Tribeca Film Institute, the Sundance Institute, and others to provide additional funding avenues. It is worth investigating through the website what partnerships exist to realize all your options.

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