Hearst Foundations: Grants for Science Education

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: Grants from the Hearst Foundations are for already high-achieving organizations; you’re not even eligible if your operating budget is less than $1 million. Notably, their focus on STEM education flows from their “Culture” pot as well as their “Education” pot, which shades them a bit differently compared to other STEM education funders.

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: 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 support education. The question is which program to tap for a STEM grant: Education or Culture.

Hearst's Culture giving supports nonprofits that “offer meaningful programs in the arts and sciences, prioritizing those which enable engagement by young people and create a lasting impression.” So your STEM program is competing for these coffers with organizations offering up theater, music, dance, visual arts education and engagement. 

Their Education giving supports "educational institutions demonstrating uncommon success in preparing students to thrive in a global society." It's easy to see where STEM fits in here too, though they don't mention it specficially. The foundations' focus in this funding pot is primarily higher education, though they still earmark support for "innovative models of early childhood and K-12 education, as well as professional development."

All told, the Hearst Foundations give approximately 25 percent of their annual payouts to Culture giving and 30 percent to Education giving, to grantees throughout the United States. You must have an annual operating budget of at least $1 million to be eligible. The foundations say 60 percent of grantees in its Culture category have budgets over $10 million; that balloons to 80 percent for Education.

As you might expect, given the operating budgets of eligible organizations, the Hearst Foundations look for significant scale. They want to fund organizations that serve “large demographic and/or geographic constituencies.” They are also looking for organizations that engage with underserved populations.

The Hearst Foundations want STEM programs that differentiate themselves from their peers—not just in an approach to programming, but also in terms of results. They prefer organizations that “enable engagement by young people and create a lasting impression.” The foundations also place importance on results, expecting “evidence of sustainability” for programs beyond their own support of them.

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.

For STEM giving through the Culture priority stream, museums and science centers predominate (perhaps because these organizations are large enough to qualify for Hearst grants) but there is nothing precluding anyone other 501(c)3 outfits from giving it a go. Recent grantees include:

  • $2,000,000 to the American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY) “to support the creation of the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation”
  • $750,000 to the New York Botanical Garden (New York, NY) “toward the design costs of the renewal and expansion of the Children’s Adventure Garden”
  • $100,000 to the Fernbank Museum (Atlanta, GA) “to support the “Pioneering the Nature Generation” initiative to restore the Fernbank Forest and expand education space and programs”
  • $100,000 to the Liberty Science Center (Jersey City, NJ) “to support Liberty Science Center’s STEM Teacher Professional Development programs”
  • $75,000 to the Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito, CA) “to launch the Early Childhood Fab Lab, a makerspace with digital fabrication technology”
  • $75,000 to the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, CA) “toward educational programs for students and teachers.”

Through its Education giving focus, recently granted STEM programs include:

  • $300,000 to the Exploratorium (San Francisco, CA) "to support language development and science learning among English Language Learners through the Integrated English Language Development and Science Project"
  • $150,000 to the Marine Mammal Center (Sausilito, CA) " for its Capacity Building Initiative
  • $100,000 to the New York Academy of Sciences (New York, NY) "to support the Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program in New York City"
  • $100,000 to the Museum of Mathematics (New York, NY) for general support to "foster mathematics interest and achievement"
  • $100,000 to the Houston Museum of Natural Science (Houston, TX) "to support scholarships for Xplorations Summer Science Camp"
  • $50,000 to the St. Louis Science Center (St. Louis, MO) for its Youth Exploring Science program.

They also give to a signifcant number of post-secondary institutions for STEM-related programs for underserved students, as well as direct student STEM scholarships linked to those post-secondary institutions.

While Hearst says they don't support “organizations involved in publishing, radio, film, or television," in fact, many such institutions (Youth Radio, The News Literacy Project, and many post-secondary journalism programs) are supported.

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.

PEOPLE:

Paul “Dino” Dinovitz, Executive Director

George Irish, Eastern Director

Mason Granger, Director of Grants

Ligia Cravo, Senior Program Officer

Teri Swenson Yeager, Senior Program Officer

Alison Yu, Program Officer