Kresge’s Education Program will join funders that review only invited applications
Later this month, Kresge’s Education Program will end its practice of accepting unsolicited proposals for financial support.
The decision is based on a review of the number of unsolicited proposals that are eventually funded.
“While the idea of an open door is appealing, the reality is that virtually no unsolicited proposals get funded,” says Bill Moses, who directs Kresge’s Education Program. The Education Program focuses on expanding student access to higher education and opening avenues to academic success, particularly for those historically excluded: low-income, first-generation, African American, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American students.
The Education Program was among the first of Kresge’s seven programs to accept unsolicited proposals via an online application system several years ago.
“We try to be explicit in describing our goals and the kind of work we expect to support,” says Moses. “Despite that, many organizations devote substantial amounts of time preparing proposals that are really outside the scope of our program.” Last year, no unsolicited applications received support from Kresge’s Education Program.
“We’re a program that encourages efforts to reduce operating costs and enhance institutional sustainability in higher education,” he continues. “That heightens our concern about the resources we know organizations are devoting to these unsuccessful requests for support.”
One common mismatch between organizations seeking support and the Education Program strategy is reach.
Because Kresge is committed to improving college achievement on a broad scale, the Education Program rarely funds programs at individual institutions. Instead, it usually awards grants in collaboration with other funders and supports established and networked organizations such as Achieving the Dream Inc.
According to The Foundation Center, some 60 percent of U.S. foundations opt not to accept unsolicited proposals. In some cases, the reason is high demand relative to available funding; in other cases the approach is driven by a philanthropy’s decision to pursue one or more strategies.
Kresge's Education Program team participates in dozens of national and regional conferences each year, notes Moses. That provides an opportunity to meet with prospective grant applicants.
The Education Program does expect to invite applications for specific efforts through one or more “request for proposals” process next year. One such opportunity, for an initiative dubbed “Credit When It’s Due,” recently closed.
Kresge’s Education Program aims to increase the number of U.S. college graduates to drive economic prosperity and help low-income and underserved people change the trajectory of their lives. It pursues two strategies to move toward that goal: one to remove the barriers to access and success; the other to strengthen postsecondary institutions that focus primarily on the needs of low-income and underrepresented students.
Kresge’s Education Program staff members look for groups of institutions or partnerships designed to broadly increase graduation rates and improve institutional productivity. They also focus resources in a number of geographic areas. Those and other criteria are detailed in the Education Program section of The Kresge Foundation website.
Last year, Kresge awarded more than $22 million in grants to support higher education in the United States and South Africa. About half of that support benefits community colleges.
The current online application portal for higher education support will be closed Nov. 29, at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. There will be no effect on applications begun before that date.
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