Heckscher Foundation for Children: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Primarily serving the New York Metro area, the Heckscher Foundation's goal is to "level the playing field" for low-income and underserved youths. Its higher education funding goes to programs that prepare students for college, increase access to higher education, and ensure academic success. The major source of funding for higher ed is Heckscher's College Readiness and Retention program.

IP TAKE: Although Heckscher is a major funder of NYC schools, it will consider any academic initiative that is designed to close the achievement gap or otherwise assist underserved youth - but keep in mind that applications are by invitation only.

PROFILE: Nearly a century into its existence, the Heckscher Foundation exists "to promote the welfare of children in New York and elsewhere throughout the United States." To that end, and with the overarching goal of "'level the playing field' for underserved youth," the foundation gives funding to "youth-serving organizations in the fields of education, family services, child welfare, health, arts and recreation." The foundation distributes millions of dollars in annual funding and recently reported its net worth at just over $300 million.

In the education realm, the foundation prefers programs that start early — college readiness begins in middle school — and programs that include every aspect of the college application process. SAT test prep, financial planning, and campus visits are all keys to earning Heckscher funding. Projects with measurable results are a key to the foundation's strategy as well.

Heckscher emphasizes the importance of placing academically capable students from low-income backgrounds into challenging higher education settings to combat a phenomenon known as "undermatching." This is when academically qualified students who could enroll in more rigorous institutions enroll instead at nonselective colleges with low graduation rates or do not attend college at all. Pointing to research showing that students are more likely to complete college “when they attend the most academically demanding institutions that will admit them,” Heckscher was a founding member of Alumni Revolution, a pilot program “designed to support college success through multi-level interventions” in part by fostering student tracking and guidance collaboration between “nonprofit college access and success organizations and high-performing charter and small school networks.

Heckscher has several additional efforts in this area as well. Its Trials program, “a partnership between the nonprofit Advantage Testing Foundation, Harvard Law School and New York University (NYU) School of Law,” is designed to increase “the chances of admission to law school for youth from underrepresented backgrounds” through efforts such as LSAT preparation courses and “a comprehensive introduction to the profession” by leading practitioners. Similarly, its Management Leadership for Tomorrow/Advantage Testing Partnership program is a collaboration with Management Leadership for Tomorrow and the Advantage Testing Foundation to “target underserved minority students with competitive academic, professional, and leadership profiles” and help them improve their GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) scores. Heckscher also runs the Heckscher Scholars Program, which offers capacity-building for NYC nonprofits and gives the city's public school students "college access and career readiness programming."

National programs that are looking to expand into New York City, especially those with solid track records, also have received past funding from the foundation. For instance, Heckscher gave Bottom Line (a national group that provides counseling services to students applying for college) seed funding to expand its program into the city, and supported programs include CollegeSpring and QuestBridge that were also expanding into New York. While the foundation does not feature a searchable database of past grant recipients, recent awardees can be viewed under the recent grants page of its Education & Academic Support program, and partners in the College Readiness program can also be viewed.

While not directly related to higher ed, some sub-areas of Heckscher’s Workforce Development program (including Per Scholas, STRIVE, and its Pharmacy Technician and Minority Workers Training programs) offer services to college-age young people through career and leadership training, mentorship, and support with job placement.

While there is no minimum or maximum amount for a grant request, Heckscher's applications are by invitation only and it does not respond to unsolicited requests. Grantseekers are advised to review the foundation's application and grant guidelines.

PEOPLE:

  • Heather Sutton, Director, Special Projects and Initiatives
  • Shelby Marzouk, Program Officer

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