Conrad Hilton Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The Conrad Hilton Foundation was built from the Hilton Hotels fortune and has both a local Los Angeles focus and a global focus. Los Angeles-area grants revolve around homelessness and foster care issues, but other areas are considered at the local level as well. The foundation prefers to reach out to organizations directly but sometimes will consider unsolicited proposals.

IP TAKE: Although the Hilton Foundation's official policy is to reject unsolicited grant proposals, it will entertain them from small-scale, community-focused organizations in Los Angeles. The foundation prefers for these unsolicited requests to come from Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, and Thousand Oaks.

PROFILE: After Conrad Hilton founded the Hilton hotel chain, he started his own family philanthropy trust in 1944. When he passed away in 1979, he left pretty much his entire estate to the foundation and asked it to focus future grantmaking on providing relief to the suffering, comfort to children, and support to Catholic nuns without any boundaries of territory, religion, or race. Several generations of Hiltons currently sit on the foundation's board of directors.

The Hilton Foundation has two grantmaking programs specific to Los Angeles. Its Supporting Older Youth in Foster Care program awards grants to organizations that help young foster children transition out of the foster care system. Los Angeles organizations must compete with New York-based organizations for grant money out of this program. Hilton's other area of grantmaking comes from its Ending Chronic Homelessness in Los Angeles County program.

In 2014, the foundation paid $99.9 million in grants - $55.6 million of those dollars stayed domestic and $44.3 million went international. The most money in 2014 went to Catholic Sisters, children affected by AIDS and HIV, foster youth, and homelessness. The number of grants awarded may be relatively small, but the average grant amount hovers around $1 million, which is anything but. 

      The Hilton Foundation has been making headlines for its $2.3 million grant to help pay for a new recreation center in Agoura Hills. The recreation center will cost a total $10 million, and it features teen and senior classes, administrative offices, cultural programs, and a large event center.

      “We were looking at how we could be a good neighbor,” Hilton said during an interview. “It was great timing. We happened to have extra money.”

      The foundation also caught our attention when it teamed up with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services to create an $18 million fund to provide housing for high-need homeless patients in the county. 

      Since the Hilton Foundation has a global reach, you should first hone in on the Los Angeles-specific program areas. But the other issue areas are still fair game, so don't write off Los Angeles-based programs that revolve around blindness, multiple sclerosis, substance abuse, and Catholic causes. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded over $1 billion in grants.

      The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals and, according to its website, aims to "…cultivate long-term partnerships with key organizations that deliver measurable results in our priority areas." This reduces the size of the new grantmaking pool a little bit, as long-term partnerships generally mean multiyear grants. Not to mention a bit of favoritism when it comes time for those organizations to re-up.

      Dig a little deeper into the foundation's fine print and you'll read the following: "Although it is our policy not to accept unsolicited proposals for our priority programs, we will entertain unsolicited proposals for small-scale community focused grants that fall within the above guidelines." This is good news for local organizations. If you think your organization is up to the competitive challenge, you can look into getting nominated for the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, which pulls in a whopping $1.5 million each year. Catholic organizations should learn more about the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters as well. The best way to contact Hilton with general questions is through its online form.

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