Hearst Funds Housing Programs as a Means of Alleviating Chronic Poverty

The goal of the Hearst Foundations, founded by 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: Technically speaking, 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 housing programs (and by extension, programs that address homelessness). Support for this arena flows through the foundations’ Social Service pot (as opposed to their Culture, Education or Health pots).

Hearst's social service grants support “direct-service organizations that tackle the roots of chronic poverty by applying effective solutions to the most challenging social and economic problems.” The Hearst Foundations look for these applications to foster economic independence and strengthen families, so think about housing in those contexts.

All told, the Hearst Foundations give approximately 15 percent of their annual payouts to social service programs throughout the U.S. You must have an annual operating budget of at least $1 million to be eligible; the foundations say 60 percent of nonprofits receiving their grants in this giving area actually have operating budgets greater than $5 million per year.

As you might expect, given the operating budgets of eligible organizations, the Hearst Foundations look for serious scale. They want to fund organizations that serve “large demographic and/or geographic constituencies.” They also like organizations that engage with underserved populations, which of course makes sense with housing needs, and aligns with their social service focus on chronic poverty alleviation.

The Hearst Foundations want your housing program to differentiate itself from your peers—not just in an approach to programming, but also in terms of results. They place importance on results by expecting “evidence of sustainability” for programs beyond their support. Similarly, preference is given “to programs with the potential to scale productive practices in order to reach more people in need.”

The foundations regularly give both program and—more notably—capital support (and a limited amount of general and endowment support) to 501(c)3 groups. Recent housing program grantees include:

Remarkably for a funder working on such a large playing field, the Hearst Foundations has an open online application process. They do, however, alert potential new applicants that 80 percent of their funding goes to previous recipients. On 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.