NET WORTH: $340 Million, estimated
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Bestselling Author
FUNDING AREAS: Literacy, Education, Human Services & Youth, Arts & Culture, Humanitarian & Animals
OVERVIEW: Nora Roberts moves her philanthropy through the Nora Roberts Foundation, which The foundation gives to about 140 organizations each year, with a primary focus on supporting literacy. Additional areas of focus are children's programs, arts organizations, and humanitarian efforts. The foundation also gives priority to local organizations, particularly in Maryland, Washington D.C. and West Virginia.
BACKGROUND: Nora Roberts was born in Silver Spring, Maryland. She worked briefly as a legal secretary and tried a number of other vocations until a blizzard in the late 1970s kicked off her career in writing. Her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published in 1981. She's since written books such as Chasing Fire, Treachery in Death, The Heart's Victory, and The Last Boyfriend. Her work has appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List for hundreds of weeks and her romance novels are immensely popular.
LITERACY: The Nora Roberts Foundation gives steadily to ProLiteracy, which "promotes adult literacy learning, content, programs and advocacy to help adult learners." It supports FirstBook, which provides access to new books for children in need, and the Literacy Council of Washington County in Maryland, which "promotes literacy by providing free individualized reading and writing instruction to non-readers and low-level readers, and promoting conversational skills to the non-English speaking community," and Wikimedia Foundation. The Nora Roberts Foundation also has supported Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, MD and Boonsboro Public Library in Maryland, among others. As well, the foundation has worked with Shepherdstown Public Library in West Virginia.
EDUCATION: The foundation funded Discovery Station at Hagerstown, which "promotes informal learning about science, technology and local history through exhibits and programs." Other grantees have included Boys and Girls Club of Washington County, Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, Hood College in Maryland, Washington County Public Schools Education Foundation, and Shepherd University Foundation. In addition, the foundation gives on annual scholarship to a Boonsboro High School senior who aims to pursue a degree in a field related to writing. The recipient is chosen through a writing contest judged by Roberts and her husband.
The foundation is also interested in funding arts as part of an integrated education. The foundation has supported Discovery Theater for its work in D.C. Public Schools based on the "Tools of the Mind" curriculum.
HUMAN SERVICES & YOUTH: The Nora Roberts Foundation has supported St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and Heartly House, which serves Frederick County, Maryland residents who have been impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. It gave recently to United Way of Frederick County in Maryland, Casa Women’s Shelter, Western Maryland Food Bank, Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and more.
ARTS & CULTURE: The foundation supports a number of arts and culture outfits including Contemporary American Theater Festival, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Imagination Stage in Bethesda, which inspires "creativity through theatre and arts education programs that nurture, challenge, and empower young people of all abilities," American Conservation Film Festival, and Smithsonian Institution.
HUMANITARIAN & ANIMALS: Grantees have included Habitat for Humanity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Washington Animal Rescue League.
LOOKING FORWARD: In her 60s, Nora Roberts is running an involved grantmaking operation, and we wouldn't be surprised to see this giving expand in coming years. Grants rarely exceed $100,000, however, and much of this is done on a local level in the Mid-Atlantic region. The good news is that the foundation has a clear and accessible wesbite. In addition, apart from Roberts' philanthropy through the Nora Roberts Foundation, she may have other more direct ways of giving and we may be missing some important gifts.