Hearst Foundations: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: Established by media mogul William Randolph Hearst, the Hearst Foundations have an overarching mission to “build healthy, productive and inspiring lives” and fund well-established nonprofits that operate in culture, education, health, and social service. Hearst also has two signature programs in journalism and government that provide students with college scholarships.

IP TAKE: For college and universities, the go-to funding areas at Hearst are its Education and Health programs. Higher ed awards have also come out of its Culture and Social Service programs, but much less frequently.

PROFILE: The goal of the Hearst Foundations, inspired by newspaper magnate and founder William Randolph Hearst, is to “ensure that people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to build healthy, productive and inspiring lives.” Its main funding areas towards that goal are culture, education, health, and social service.

First, to clear up why they are the Hearst Foundations, plural. Technically speaking, William Randolph Hearst established an East Coast foundation in 1945 and a West Coast foundation in 1948. Their missions were (and remain) the same, as are the granting stipulations; whether your organization resides east or west of the Mississippi River is the only difference.

The most obvious pathway to funding is through Hearst’s Education program, which looks for “educational institutions demonstrating uncommon success in preparing students to thrive in a global society” and which is focused “largely on higher education.” When selecting Education grantees, Hearst primarily gives “[p]rogram, scholarship, capital and, on a limited basis, general and endowment support,” and looks mainly to fund “[h]igher education programs and scholarships and, on a limited basis, scholarships for post-graduate education” as well as “[p]rofessional development for teachers.” According to the foundation, about 30% of its annual funding generally goes to this program.

Next up is the other big category for colleges and universities - Hearst’s Health program. In addition to support for organizations “providing access to high-quality healthcare for low-income populations” and “programs designed to enhance skills and increase the number of practitioners and educators across roles in healthcare,” universities are also eligible for grants that “support medical research and the development of young investigators” in the field. As with the Education program, Health grants make up about 30% of annual Hearst funding.

Funding for higher ed also been occasionally available through the foundations’ other two programs, but much less frequently. Each year a few college and university grants come out of the Culture program, which gets about a quarter of Hearst grants and gives support to “programs in the arts and sciences, prioritizing those which enable engagement by young people and create a lasting and measurable impact” as well as “select programs nurturing and developing artistic talent.” Lastly, Hearst’s Social Service program is focused on “fund[ing] direct-service organizations that tackle the roots of chronic poverty” and working towards “facilitating economic independence and in strengthening families,” but thus far it appears that only one higher ed award has been made in this area.

For a detailed look at grantmaking, it’s certainly worth browsing through the foundation’s grants database, which can be searched by program, keyword, location, grant amount, and year. Just a few of the initiatives Hearst has funded in recent grant rounds include scholarships (particularly for economically disadvantaged students), diversity initiatives, a performance art facility construction, STEM, medical research, teacher development, and several journalism initiatives - unsurprising considering Hearst’s background in the field.

Speaking of journalism, undergraduate journalism majors should certainly look into Hearst’s signature Journalism Awards Program, which gives up to $500,000 total to students for “outstanding performance in college-level journalism, with matching grants to the students’ schools.” Awards are given in monthly writing, photojournalism, broadcast news, and multimedia. Eligibility is restricted to undergrads majoring in journalism (the only exception being the photojournalism competition). You can view monthly and national winners, see a list of participating schools, and learn more about how to apply from the program’s website.

Hearst’s other signature program, the United States Senate Youth Program, selects two high school student leaders (juniors or seniors) from each state (plus Washington, D.C. and the DoD Education Activity) to “spend a week in Washington experiencing their national government in action,” including a meeting with a Supreme Court justice. In addition to covering all expenses, students are awarded a $10,000 college scholarship each. Information on eligibility and the application process can be found here.

Before getting started on your grant application, a few important things to keep in mind. First off, Hearst only funds organizations with annual operating budgets of at least $1 million, with 80% of Education and Health grantees having budgets of $10 million or higher. In addition, 80% of its awards go to past grantees, so the opening is certainly narrower for first-time grantseekers. Recent awards have tended to fall in the $75,000 to $150,000 range, but in some cases have gone much higher.

Also be mindful of the various areas Hearst will not fund, such as organizations “involved in publishing, radio, film or television” and initiatives like “tours, conferences, workshops or seminars,” “advocacy or public policy research,” and “seed money or support for start-up projects.”

Ready to get started? Head over to the application page, which will start with an eligibility quiz and then ask for more detailed information about your proposal. Organizations whose requests are denied must wait a year before reapplying, and those who are approved are locked out for three years.


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