Hearst Foundations: Grants for Mental Health

OVERVIEW: The Hearst Foundations have a mission to “build healthy, productive, and inspiring lives.” They seek to achieve this by supporting well-established nonprofit organizations that operate in the realms of culture, education, health and social service.

IP TAKE: This funder is dedicated to supporting mental health programs, especially for young populations. But you've already got to be a pretty well-oiled operation (with at least a $1 million annual operating budget) for your program to be eligible.

PROFILE: The goal of the Hearst Foundations, founded by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, is to “ensure that people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to build healthy, productive, and inspiring lives.”

First, to clear up why they are the Hearst Foundations, plural: 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.

Regardless of what side of the Mississippi you're on, these foundations are committed to supporting health. The word "healthy" is right there in their mission, and Health is one of four areas of foundation giving.

There are obviously myriad ways to support a healthy society. The foundations acknowledge this in their own desire to leave a large footprint, stating that they seek to use their funds "to create a broad and enduring impact on the nation’s health."

But the foundations do narrow their scope a bit, articulating five priorities:

  • Professional development
  • Specialized care for elderly populations
  • improving access and quality for low-income populations
  • Innovating health care delivery systems
  • Research, particularly related to disease prevention and treatment.

You've probably noticed that nothing specifically related to mental health makes that list, but recent giving shows a significant emphasis on mental health programs. There's opportunity here, so long as your program hits upon one or more of the bullets above.

Approximately 30 percent of Hearst's grant budget goes to health programs throughout the U.S. You must have an annual operating budget of at least $1 million to be eligible, but the foundations note that 80 percent of grantees in their Health category have budgets over $10 million.

As you might expect, given the operating budgets of eligible organizations, the Hearst Foundations look large in terms of scope. They want to fund organizations that serve “large demographic and/or geographic constituencies.”

As a comment on their overall giving (not just related to health) Hearst prefers to fund organizations that “enable engagement by young people and create a lasting impression.” Engagement of "young people" might seem a bit less relevant for mental programming, but the foundations' recent giving (a sample of which is shared below) shows particular attention to the mental health of children. In another grant pathway, also "young people"-relevant is the foundations' desire to fund professional development.

The Hearst Foundations want mental health-related programs that differentiate themselves from their peers—not just in an approach to programming, but also in terms of results. They also place importance on results by expecting “evidence of sustainability” for programs beyond their own support of them. They regularly give both program and—more notably—capital support (and a limited amount of general and endowment support) to 501(c)3 orgs.

Recently granted mental health programs include:

  • $650,000 to Stanford University Medical Center (Palo Alto, CA) "to support research by physician-scientists in the Departments of Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences"
  • $150,000 to Montefiore Health Systems (Bronx, NY) "toward expansion of the Healthy Steps behavioral health program in Montefiore’s pediatric primary care network"
  • $150,000 to New Alternatives for Children (New York, NY) "toward the creation of a medical and mental health clinic serving medically fragile children in the child welfare system"
  • $125,000 to the Kennedy Krieger Foundation (Baltimore, MD) "toward the Weinberg Building, a new outpatient facility to treat cognitive, behavioral and affective disorders"
  • $75,000 to the Child Mind Institute (New York, NY) "yoward the Healthy Brain Network, a five-year research initiative to advance the understanding of brain development and the causes of psychiatric and learning disorders in children"
  • $75,000 to Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children (New York, NY) "to expand the 'Mental & Emotional Health Initiatives for Children' program
  • $30,000 to the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut (Stamford, CT) "toward Child and Family Therapy for children and adolescents struggling with developmental, behavioral, or psychological challenges."

Remarkably for a funder working on such a large playing field, the Hearst Foundations has an open online application process. They do, however, warn new applicants that 80 percent of their funding goes to previous recipients. The flipside of this daunting statistic: if you do make the cut for initial funding through the Hearst Foundations, the odds are in your favor that you’ll continue receiving it. But you’ll have to wait at least three years until that happens; the foundations stipulate that as the “waiting period” between grants.


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