OVERVIEW: Primarily serving the New York Metro area, the Heckscher Foundation is an important regional education funder, not just in terms of dollar amount, but also in the scope of its strategy. The foundation's education program targets schools of all types, and the program staff awards grants to programs set on improving performance.
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, including programs that are not explicitly in education but whose work may ultimately help students improve academically. This leaves the door open for a variety of programs in New York and nationwide, but 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.
While many Heckscher grants go to schools, education nonprofits shouldn't be discouraged, as significant grant funding is also earmarked for nonprofits each year. For K-12 grantseekers, the most explicitly education-oriented funding areas are Education & Academic Support, Arts Education, and Health, Recreation & Social Services. The expectations and specifics of each funding area are only briefly summarized below, so it is recommended to review them in much greater detail if Heckscher invites you to apply for a grant.
The types of organizations, programs, and services eligible for Education & Academic Support are broad indeed. The foundation supports "public, private, parochial and alternative schools," and is particularly interested in superior, standards-aligned programs that "extend in-school learning" and connect "the regular school day and the 'real world.'" Some specific improvements the foundation looks for are increases in grades, literacy, "SAT or other standardized test scores," and the rates of high school graduation, college admission, and college admission. Within this scope, 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."
Heckscher's Arts Education arm, meanwhile, is geared at exposing low-income youth to experiences in the arts that might not otherwise be available to them. Collaboration between artists and teachers is key in this respect, as one of the goals of the program is ultimately for the working relationship to become so close that "partner teachers consider themselves artists and participating artists consider themselves teachers." In terms of student outcomes, the program wants to see "increased school performance as a result of integration of arts education" in addition to "avoidance of risk and problem behaviors" and improved skills in the arts and literacy.
Lastly, the Health, Recreation & Social Services area offers support to "social services projects that impact or correlate with positive behavioral outcomes in academic improvement and toward economic stability." As with Education & Academic Support, key sought-after outcomes include improvements in academics and test scores. Beyond these results, however, HRSS also wants organizations it funds in this area to contribute to decreased recidivism and improvements in nutrition, physical activity, socio-emotional development, and personal and economic independence.
Heckscher's other two funding areas are also related to K-12 students and youth, albeit more tangentially. Its Capacity Building & Technical Assistance program is focused on facilitating "partnerships with expert consultants specializing in helping high-potential organizations improve the services they provide to children in need" in order to improve areas such as finance, leadership, networking, and leadership. Its Workforce Development funding arm, meanwhile, is directed at organizations facilitate career readiness and looks specifically at their capacity to help youths find and keep work and ultimately advance in the workplace.
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 would be wise to review the foundation's application and grant guidelines.
- Heather Sutton, Director, Special Projects and Initiatives
- Shelby Marzouk, Program Officer