Jessie Ball duPont Fund: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Jessie Ball duPont gave generously to various causes, including liberal arts colleges, during her lifetime. The duPont Fund continues her work, which includes grants to small liberal arts colleges across the country for efforts including capital campaigns, student retention efforts, and "green" projects such as improving campus energy efficiency.

IP TAKE: Obtaining a grant from this funder comes down to who you know — or who you knew, rather. Higher ed eligibility is limited exclusively to the 42 liberal arts colleges that received funding from Jessie Ball duPont during her lifetime.

PROFILE: Lacking the tax-funded resources of state colleges and universities, private liberal arts colleges often rely on philanthropic funding to help support their missions and offset the cost of the education they offer. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund has been a friend of many private and public liberal arts colleges for years.

The duPont Fund, endowed by the late Jessie Ball duPont, awards grants in the areas of higher education, non-profit organizations, and religious groups. The fund's grantmaking activities focus on three areas: “strengthening the independent sector,” “building the assets of people and communities,” and “building the capacity of eligible organizations.”

Unlike many funders, which accept and review funding proposals, the duPont Fund limits its grantmaking activities to a defined group of organizations that received gifts from Mrs. duPont. To be eligible, your organization must have received a gift from Mrs. duPont between January 1, 1960 and December 31, 1964. According to the fund, there are 330 organizations across the country that are eligible for grants. This set of organizations includes 42 private and public liberal arts colleges, which can be identified by searching in the fund’s eligibility database.

The duPont Fund regards small liberal arts colleges "to be among the nation's most vital assets," and supports their work through two programs: the Discretionary Fund for New Presidents and the duPont Fund/National Humanities Center Summer Seminar. The Discretionary Fund provides “the new president of a small private liberal arts college with an endowment of less than $50 million may receive a discretionary grant of $10,000 for three consecutive years upon his/her appointment.” The summer seminar “is a three-week summer session for college professors teaching at the 42 small private and public colleges,” and “ is held each June at the National Humanities Center campus in North Carolina.”  

As per the fund, its "competitive grantmaking program responds to individual proposals initiated by eligible organizations" and makes awards based on the "quality of the idea, relevance to the organization’s constituency and community, and consistency with the grantmaking goals of the Fund." In addition, the foundation offers modest "feasibility" grants "to allow eligible organizations to ask and answer fundamental questions before undertaking new work as well as technical assistance grants "to help support strategic planning, consultancies, staff and board professional development, or technology."

In the past, the duPont Fund has provided grants for various activities and projects, including energy conservation and other “green” efforts, to eligible private and public colleges across the country. Most grants range in size from $20,000 to $100,000 but have occasionally been substantially higher. Grants awarded from 1998 to the present can be found in the fund’s grants database.

Beyond higher education, additional eligible organizations (also prior recipients of Jessie duPont’s support) include independent pre-collegiate schools, nonprofits, and religious organizations. From time to time, the fund will also give unsolicited disaster relief grants.

The fund encourages organizations seeking funding to contact program staff prior to applying, and accepts proposals throughout the year. In addition, the Proposal Center page on duPont's website contains guidelines, application forms, and proposal outlines that can be downloaded. Initial requests are reviewed by the duPont Fund's board of trustees who either decline the request or invite the organization to submit a proposal for final review.

PEOPLE:

  • Katie Ensign, Senior Program Officer
  • Barbara Roole, Senior Program Officer

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