Where Have Hilton's Global Grants Been Going Lately?

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, with assets of $2.5 billion, is one of the biggest private U.S. funders giving for global health and development. But despite its size and reach, it keeps a relatively low profile. It's more of workhorse than a showhorse as a funder. Even as it constantly strives to do better, it doesn't draw attention to itself with claims to be on the cutting edge of fancy grantmaking trends. Instead, it stays focused in a few vital areas and keeps pumping out the grants. Its still-new president, Peter Laugharn, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to health and poverty issues in the developing world. 

What's more, as we've reported, Hilton is on a path to get much bigger down the line, with assets that will roughly double when bequeathed wealth from Barron Hilton becomes available for grantmaking. In anticipation of its growth, the foundation is adding a second building to its headquarters in Agoura Hills, California. 

All of which is why we keep a close eye on Hilton's global giving—and why NGOs working in its key program areas should, too.

So what's this funder been up lately? And who's getting grants for what? 

Well, earlier this fall, we reported on some tweaks to Hilton's strategy around water sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Hilton's long been a top player in this space, and it's sticking with this work, making its usual big grants, but also giving more attention to market-based WASH solutions, as we described in the piece below. 

Related: Hilton Tweaks Its WASH Strategy

Now, for the final quarter of this year, Hilton has announced $35.7 million in new grants and also some big changes to its Children Affected by HIV and AIDS initiative.

A big chunk of Hilton’s fourth-quarter grantmaking went toward its international initiatives, with its Avoidable Blindness program taking the funding lead. The foundation made three grants through this program totaling nearly $11.75 million. The largest grant of close to $6 million was awarded to Helen Keller International for its trachoma elimination programs in Mali and Niger. The Carter Center also received a grant of $5.1 million for its trachoma work in both countries and Sightsavers was awarded $650,000 for its trachoma elimination work in Mali.

Up next are Hilton’s Safe Water program grants, which totaled just over $4.6 million in this latest round.

Water for People got $3 million for the implementation of sustainable water services in the Kamwenge District of Uganda. The IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre received a $1 million grant for its WASH work in Burkina Faso, Niger and Uganda. Hilton also cut a $200,000 check to Water.org to help the organization implement its WaterCredit program in Ghana and Stanford University received a $435,000 grant monitoring and evaluation of Hilton’s Safe Water strategy.

The foundation also awarded a couple of grants through its Catholic Sisters program to support global leadership conferences and to develop an online certificate granting program for Catholic Sisters in Africa.

All told, Hilton awarded just over $17 million in grants to global efforts in this latest grantmaking round. This is relatively status quo for Hilton. Although the grant to Stanford may be indicative of some more changes to its Safe Water program in the future, its Children Affected by HIV and AIDS initiative has already undergone some major retooling.

Hilton’s Children Affected by HIV and AIDS initiative launched in 2012 and focused on ensuring that all children under five reach their “cognitive, social, and physical development potential in high HIV prevalence setting in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia.”

At the end of this year, the initiative’s five-year time clock runs out. Not wanting to abandon the program altogether at the end of this year, the foundation examined its successes, failures, areas of improvement and opportunities to adjust the strategy’s focus.

After meeting with more than 60 partner organizations, Hilton determined the best way to move forward would start with aligning its work more closely with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 4.2. This target calls for access to early childhood development care (ECD) and primary education for all children by 2030.

Over the next five years, the Children Affected by HIV and AIDS program will focus on strengthening approaches toward improving caregiving and early learning opportunities; building stronger societal and governmental networks; and gathering and disseminating evidence to help advance ECD policies and practices.

And Hilton isn’t wasting any time getting the new approach up and running by January 1, 2017. The foundation has already awarded $2.4 million in grants through its newly restructured Children Affected by HIV and AIDS initiative.

The largest grant of $1.5 million was awarded to the Aga Khan Foundation USA. The money will build out the workforce capacity of ECD professionals in communities in East and Southern Africa with high HIV burdens.

The Alliance for Open Society International also received a $500,000 grant to establish the Better Early Learning and Development at Scale Initiative, a program operated by the Global Partnership for Education.

The final grant was awarded to Catholic Relief Services. The $400,000 grant will support its ongoing program to help Catholic Sisters meet the developmental needs of children affected by HIV/AIDS.

This second stage of Hilton’s Children Affected by HIV and AIDS initiative is under development, and the foundation is still learning the best directions to take for sustainable progress. It's worth keeping in mind that this an issue area that Peter Laugharn knows a lot about. He was a co-founder of the Coalition for Children Affected by AIDS and his last job, leading the Firelight Foundation, involved close work in this area in Africa, at the community level.