FirstEnergy Foundation: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: The FirstEnergy Foundation is the charitable arm of FirstEnergy, a U.S.-based “diversified energy company.” The foundation focuses on arts and culture, civic projects, and education through its support of community-driven programs.

IP TAKE: The FirstEnergy Foundation gives modest amounts to a long list of organizations, so while this funder won’t cover all of your needs, it will pay attention. If you’re operating in a community that receives FirstEnergy services (and it’s a healthy list), the FirstEnergy Foundation is a supporter of established, local media broadcast organizations.

PROFILE: The FirstEnergy Foundation is the philanthropic offshoot of FirstEnergy, a “diversified energy company” headquartered in Akron, OH. The foundation seeks to support and improve life in the communities in which it has offices and provides services, and does this by giving to civic and economic development, education initiatives, and arts and culture.

Technically speaking, the FirstEnergy Foundation’s support of media organizations and their journalistic enterprises falls within its self-structured category of “vitality of our communities.” This is the box you will check off in your application to the foundation when you hit that stage of the game (more on that below).

But do not fear that FirstEnergy Foundation’s support of journalism and media is merely lip service within this commitment to “vitality.” Every year on its 990, this is a foundation that lists more than 60 organizations that it has donated to within a category it defines as “Arts & Culture.” This is where the foundation's media giving resides, and it is a true focus of giving for the FirstEnergy Foundation.

But the focus of its arts and culture giving—and therefore its support of journalism and media—lies in that phrase “vitality of our communities.” Community is the watchword here. In terms of geography, the foundation’s main interests are the communities to which its corporate arm provides services. This includes substantial swaths Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey, as well as portions of Maryland and Virginia.

The FirstEnergy Foundation supports these communities by funding non-profit, community-driven programming. This foundation has no interest in national or international level programming, which is great news for locally operated journalistic organizations.

The FirstEnergy Foundation gives modest amounts, typically ranging from $500 to $2,500 in the arts and culture realm. But depending on your needs and your ask, it’s game to provide you with just that extra $50 you need—or on much rarer occasions, that $250,000 that will catapult you to the next level.

Though for the most part the FirstEnergy Foundation’s funding won’t be your media organization’s sole provider, the great news is that it’s a foundation interested in supporting a wide variety of endeavors. Recent journalism and media funding includes:

Because it generally doesn’t give huge amounts, the FirstEnergy Foundation likes to know that you’ve created additional partnerships and have cultivated other funding resources to assure your program's financial health. The foundation asks you to discuss these partnerships and funding sources on your grant application.

And about that grant application: The FirstEnergy Foundation does not formally accept unsolicited ones. Do not let this deter you. The foundation encourages you to make contact with local FirstEnergy management (again, it’s about community). The foundation also encourages you to reach out to the staff of its Community Involvement Department (see below).

While you’re making those inroads, you can also take a look at the grant application you will eventually fill out. (Do this using the Safari platform; the download of this Microsoft Word document does not seem to work in Firefox.)


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