Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation: Oklahoma Grants

OVERVIEW: The Oklahoma-based Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation focuses grantmaking on higher education and health research and delivery in south-central and central Oklahoma. This foundation accepts unsolicited Letters of Inquiry during it annual open grant period and accepts inquiries by email or mail. 

FUNDING AREAS: Higher education, health research and delivery systems and social service/quality of life projects

IP TAKE: Prospective grantseekers in Oklahoma should rejoice, as this is an accessible, locally-focused foundation that accepts unsolicited letters of inquiry and has a no-nonsense application process. Grants typically fall between $10,000 and $50,000, so consider keeping your request within that range.

PROFILE: Founded in 1945 and based in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation supports community, education, and healthcare projects and organizations.  Lloyd Noble was a successful oilman who named this foundation after his father, Samuel Roberts Noble. Lloyd was the founder of Noble Drilling Corporation and the Samedan Oil Corporation.

Established in 1945 and incorporated in 1952, this foundation has spent more than $1 billion for charitable purposes, including more than $300 million for grants and scholarships. At the end of a recent year, the Noble Foundation as a whole reported nearly$1.3 billion in assets and over $2 million in total giving. Over $2 million went towards 225 grants for organizations that year.

The Noble Foundation focuses its grantmaking on south-central and central Oklahoma, and its areas of interests are higher education, health research and delivery systems, and social service/quality of life projects.  Almost all grantees are located in Oklahoma. According to Noble Director of Philanthropy, Engagement and Project Management, Mary Kate Wilson, exceptions to this rule are “well-established organizations that demonstrate good stewardship, consistency in their operations and responsiveness to their constituents’ needs.” However, all nonprofits must be located within the United States.

Wilson described her foundation as a reactive grantmaker, rather than one that operates from a specifically defined theory of change, saying: 

The Noble Foundation’s trustees closely direct our grantmaking through the philosophy of supporting nonprofit organizations that are good stewards of the funds entrusted to them. They come back to a statement made by our founder Lloyd Noble, who said, "The only true happiness must come from not only understanding your own needs, but an understanding and willingness to secure the same things for your fellow man.”

Wilson is the lone philanthropy staff member at Noble, and she joined the foundation back in 1997. She manages all aspects of grantmaking, scholarship, and community support activities from the initial inquiry to project completion. She’s also in charge of managing foundation-wide projects and collaborations with other organizations.

Fortunately for grantseekers, the Noble Foundation does consider requests from nonprofits that have not previously applied for funding—as long as these nonprofits maintain realistic expectations. And the foundation does not accept requests for multi-year commitments.

“Given the almost 70 years of grantmaking history, there are numerous entities that receive support on a consistent basis,” Wilson said. “The reality is that donors have to say 'no' much more often than they say 'yes.'"

When asked about one piece of advice the foundation would give to prospective grantees, Wilson replied, “Be prepared to discuss your organization’s priorities for funding. The worst thing a grant seeker can do, whether with the Noble Foundation or another prospective donor, is to create a project they believe matches the donor’s priorities, but does not align with their organization’s core purpose.”

We asked Wilson to tell us a little about what’s going on at the Noble Foundation right now that grantseekers should be aware of. Here’s what she shared:

In late 2013, we launched a program called “Noble in the Community.” Through this program, employees volunteer time, finances and energy toward worthy activities. The activities encompass a wide range of focus including cleaning up the shoreline of a nearby lake, teaching children about agriculture, operating a water stop for a regional marathon that supports cancer treatment and sorting toys for Christmas toy distribution to underprivileged children. As part of our overall philanthropic program, Noble in the Community leads to team building and ultimately a stronger community through the countless individuals and families we touch.”

Previous Noble grant recipients in Oklahoma include the YMCA of Ardmore, Good Shepherd Medical and Dental Clinic Foundation, Arbuckle Life Solutions, and the Charles B. Goddard Center for Visual and Performing Arts. 

The Noble Foundation uses a straight-forward Letter of Inquiry process and typically accepts new inquires between January and May. Letters should be about two pages long and summarize the nonprofit organization’s background and the proposed project.

Your best point of contact for general questions is Mary Kate Wilson. You can email your Letter of Inquiry or send via mail to the Ardmore office.


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