Conrad N. Hilton Foundation: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: The multi-billion dollar foundation established by the founder of the Hilton hotel chain has a global footprint and has recently given an estimated $100 million in annual grants. Its wide-ranging interests include several specific areas of medical research, various youth support initiatives,  support for Catholic sisters, disaster relief, and work in the hospitality sector. The Conrad Hilton Foundation frequently awards multi-year grants, and has a stated preference to “cultivate long-term projects.”

IP TAKE: Even though it doesn’t have a targeted higher ed program, the diversity of Hilton’s programs and interests have opened the door for universities to earn high-level funding. Unfortunately, unsolicited applications are off the table.

PROFILE: Today, Conrad N. Hilton is best known as the man who founded the global hotel chain that bears his family name. But in 1944, the hotel magnate also founded the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, with the mandate to “relieve the suffering, the distressed and the destitute.” A family foundation, this funder’s articles of incorporation require that “direct descendants of Conrad Hilton constitute a majority of the board.”

Today, the foundation operates around the globe, with assets recently reported at around $2.5 billion, total grantmaking at more than $1 billion, and about $100 million in giving in a recent year. That said, some programs have specific geographic concentrations, and “much of our [international] work focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Though Hilton doesn’t focus specifically on higher ed, that shouldn’t discourage potential grantseekers. Postsecondary institutions have consistently earned support for work aligned with its numerous focus areas, which include support for Catholic Sisters; early interventions for children affected by HIV / AIDS; support for foster children ages 15-21 in Los Angeles and New York as they transition to adulthood; elimination of chronic homelessness in L.A. County; youth substance abuse prevention; provision of “safe and affordable water” in India and select countries in Africa; work “on the elimination of trachoma and increasing access to cataract surgery”; disaster relief and recovery; “promoting excellence in the hospitality sector” as well as “helping young people from all backgrounds build careers in hotel and restaurant management”; and Multiple Sclerosis research.

Not surprisingly, this long list of program areas means that there is a tremendous range of potential openings for higher ed institutions to partner up with the Hilton Foundation. A few examples:

  • As IP has reported, the foundation recently awarded a multi-year grant of $5.4 million to UCLA to create a program to “train students in evidence-based approaches to accelerating poverty reduction and achieving the [U.N.] Sustainable Development Goals.”
  • Approximately $900,000 apiece have been recently been allocated to Washington University and U.C. San Francisco for technology initiatives related to M.S. study and treatment
  • Through a multi-year, $8.5 million award to Marywood University, “3,400 sisters serving in ten African countries will have opportunities to develop core competencies in the areas of technology, management, and mentoring.”
  • $75,000 recently went to Saint Leo University “for endowment support of the International Tourism and Hospitality Management Council's Scholarship program”

For more details, Hilton Foundation grants dating back to 2009 can be viewed at this link.


The short of it: there are numerous potential avenues for institutions of higher learning to establish a lasting relationship with the Hilton Foundation, especially since it seeks to “cultivate long-term projects.” Unfortunately for first-time grantseekers, unsolicited proposals are not accepted at Hilton, and the foundation’s website is not clear regarding unsolicited letters of inquiry.


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