Doris Duke Charitable Foundation: Grants for STEM Education and Science Research

OVERVIEW: Colleges and universities consistently receive funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), which supports STEM education and science research through its environmental and medical research programs. The foundation funds open competitive grants, invites LOIs, and accepts applications from both individuals and organizations.

IP TAKE: While the Duke Foundation does not have a STEM-specific funding area, higher education institutions have sizeable grants through its other programs. Eligibility and openness vary by program.

PROFILE: The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation was created in 1996 by Doris Duke, daughter of the founder of Duke Energy Company and the American Tobacco Company. The foundation seeks “to improve the quality of people's lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke's properties.” Duke prioritizes six funding areas: Arts, Environment, Medical Research, Child Well-Being, African Health Initiative, and Building Bridges, which seeks to build relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim communities..

Duke supports STEM education through its Environmental program, which has a stated mission "to enable communities to protect and manage wildlife habitat and create efficient built environments." To that end, the program has four sub-strategies: Land Conservation, Wildlife & Energy Development, Strengthening the Conservation Field, and Environmental Stewardship in the Tri-State Area. The foundation distributed grants to postsecondary institutions nationwide that ranged from tens of thousands into the millions of dollars. These grants supported efforts including scholars programs, conferences, urban agriculture, energy efficiency, and studies related to the effects of climate change. Grantseekers can learn more about the program’s grantmaking process here.

During her lifetime, Doris Duke supported medical research so it is understandable that the Medical Research program is another source for STEM higher education funding. With a focus on "prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease by strengthening and supporting clinical research," this program supports several rounds of clinical mentorships and research awards at various colleges and universities, as well as smaller amounts of funding for initiatives such as a "summer program for underrepresented students." New grantseekers can learn more about the program’s funding goals by clicking here and by using Duke’s searchable database of past medical research grantees.

Merging the postsecondary and K-12 fronts, there is also a Clinical Research Continuum: High School to College program, which seeks to “cultivate the interests of individuals from groups underrepresented in the sciences toward careers in biomedical research.” Grantseekers should note that college students interested in this program must be alumni of the high school component.

As is increasingly the norm among larger grantmakers, the foundation hosts a grants database of past awards from across the various programs. Duke’s, however, is unique in that it goes back all the way to 1997, so fundraisers can get a broader picture of trends in the foundation’s funding over the years. Duke also features a Grantee Spotlight blog that can give further insight into its priorities, as well as an Open Competitions & Funding Opportunities page.

Depending on the program or initiative, funding may be available via "foundation-initiated invitations to apply, re-granting competitions that are administered by service organizations and competitions that are run using request-for-proposal processes." The foundation does welcome letters of inquiry, but grantseekers should first review Duke's program-specific grantmaking strategy to determine if their project is eligible.


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