Hearst Foundations: Grants for College Readiness

OVERVIEW: The Hearst Foundations education program has long targeted colleges and universities, but it has always kept the door open for K-12 nonprofits and schools. Hearst's grants mostly support large organizations — with budgets exceeding $10 million — but they also support some midsize nonprofits with budgets over $1 million. In the past few years, a consistent portion of grants have supported K-12 initiatives, including those for college readiness.

IP TAKE: Hearst grants are extremely competitive -- especially for first-time K-12 grantseekers -- and the foundations' education program doesn't have a specific college readiness focus. But organizations working in may ways to prepare students for "college success" have consistently received support, and shouldn't hesitate to consider applying.

PROFILE: The Hearst Foundations support nonprofits working "to ensure that people of all backgrounds in the United States have the opportunity to build healthy, productive and inspiring lives," particularly those serving low-income populations. There are four broad funding priorities: health, culture, social service, and education. 

Each year, Hearst earmarks roughly 30 percent of its total grant budget for education. The majority of this funding supports higher education through "program, scholarship, capital and, on a limited basis, general and endowment support." That's not the best news for college readiness fundraisers, but Hearst does also fund K-12 schools and nonprofits, including a fair number that focus on preparing students for "college success" (the term most often found in reference to Hearst support for college readiness initiatives)

A little digging into the foundations' recent giving offers important insight into the kinds of college readiness programs they have tended to support. Recent support includes funding for programs in college preparation, work study, college success, and expanded college options, and provision of resources and teaching assistants. Recipient organizations have been similarly diverse, including the likes of the American Council on Education, Bard College (for an early college program), East Harlem Tutorial Program, Generation Schools Network, Good Shepherd Services, Blue Engine, Cristo Rey New York High School, and more. 

Some of the more notworthy trends include targeted support for minority and low-income students, as well as support for students who are the first generation from their families to attend college (the foundations also back many postsecondary scholarships for these same students). 

If you're interested in digging deeper into the foundations' giving, it's worth reviewing recent education grantees in the foundations' database to get a more comprehensive picture of its funding priorities. 

It's important to focus on those priorities in your grant request, because there is significant competition for Hearst grants. The foundations fund only 20% of grant requests. Of those, 80% are returning grantees, leaving a relatively small window for first-time K-12 grantseekers. Further, the foundation typically supports large and, to a lesser extent, midsize organizations. Grantseekers are required to have an operating budget of at least $1 million, and 80% of funding goes to organizations with budgets of $10 million or more.

Yes, it can be difficult to secure Hearst funding, but there's definitely room available for your college readiness program. Before beginning the open application process, be sure to review the relevant funding limitations and FAQ page.  Applications are accepted year-round, though there is a mandatory waiting period for reapplying (one year if the application is declined, three years if approved).

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