Hearst Foundations: Grants for K-12 Education

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.

IP TAKE: Hearst grants are extremely competitive, and that's especially true for first-time grantseekers and K-12 programs. But K-12 fundraisers with a promising professional development project or an innovative classroom, teaching, or learning model 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 K-12 fundraisers, but Hearst does also fund K-12 schools and nonprofits, particularly those that deliver "innovative models of early childhood and K-12 education, as well as professional development." Some recently-funded initiatives have included programs in career and college readiness, "summer programs for low-income children," scholarships for school tuition and a "summer science camp," reading programs, and the above-mentioned priority area of professional development. Grantseekers would do well to review recent education grantees in the foundation's 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 K-12 grantseekers. Before beginning the open application process, K-12 fundraisers should 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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