Located in Pennsylvania, the private Annenberg Foundation makes grants to support a variety of public educational goals, all united in the effort to encourage and facilitate educational reform. Well known for its Challenge Grants, most of which began in 1993, the foundation also supports a variety of annual programs that benefit large school districts and educational programs. Within the realm of K-12 education, the main criterion for annual grants is the “potential to affect change on a larger scale than just one school district or one school,” according to Program Officer Gillian Norris-Szanto. The foundation prefers to support widespread projects that have sweeping effects, rather than those focused on one classroom or a single community. All of the Annenberg Foundation’s grants fall under at least one of the following focus areas:

  • School and community partnerships;
  • Literacy;
  • Arts education;
  • Intervention and mentoring programs; or
  • Professional development and curriculum.
The Annenberg Foundation’s Challenge Grants have been called “the largest private and public partnership to reform public schools in our nation’s history.” These are programs of major breadth and depth, requiring funds far in excess of the foundation’s support, so they include partnerships with private donors and other foundations. New Challenge Grants are not being issued right now, but some funding is still being provided to key Challenge Grant sites in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Detroit, and other areas.

All Challenge Grants support and initiate educational reform, most through widespread school unification and community involvement within a geographic area, focused on a site’s unique strengths. Many of the projects also encourage university and college involvement with K-12 public education as part of each partnership structure.

While the Challenge Grants have attracted the most attention, the foundation today is making numerous smaller grants across the country. Most of its current grant recipients are umbrella organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Educators for Social Responsibility, and the Education Development Center. According to Norris-Szanto, these groups mesh well with the foundation’s mission because they have the ability to duplicate a successful program across the country in diverse settings. The programs support youth of all ages, and they can include either in-school or after-school mentoring, or both.

The foundation also provides grants to organizations that are undertaking long-range studies of how to implement reform in urban schools. Two recent grant recipients, the Developmental Studies Center in Oakland, Calif., and the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform in Chicago, illustrate these types of programs.

Unlike many other grant providers, the Annenberg Foundation not only funds large or small programs. It supports numerous pilot projects each year with some seed money, and it will provide “program development” funds in later years if the project shows promise. Development of supplementary youth workshops, internet-based math and science programs, and electronic homework centers have received from $25,000 to more than $600,000 each.

Some recently awarded general grants show the variety of initiatives the Annenberg Foundation will support:

  • $200,000 to the Riordan Foundation in Los Angeles to support the Rx for Reading program, which provides challenge grants for technology-based instructional programs in low-income elementary schools.
  • $100,000 for a collaboratively operated after-school program in San Francisco, focused on early childhood education.
  • $100,000 for an early childhood intervention program in Milwaukee for children ages four to nine.
  • $75,000 for three model classrooms designed to advance literacy in low-income schools in Philadelphia.
  • $100,000 for the Teachers as Leaders Program, which provides professional development for young teachers in public schools located in lower-income Southern communities.
  • $100,000 for the development of Literacy Pathways, a multimedia learning environment for parents and educators, featuring a literary resource web site.
  • $25,000 to purchase musical instruments for disadvantaged public schools in Baltimore.
Annenberg Foundation grants are limited to public, nonprofit educational organizations in the United States. Most funds are awarded outright, and matching grants usually are not required.

All submitted proposals must meet one annual application deadline, which is usually in the late fall. Notification of grant awards takes place each spring. The foundation actively seeks out some grantees, based upon their past accomplishments and the scope of their activities, but it also welcomes unsolicited applications.

Some guidelines to consider when applying include:

  • Only inquires from public, nonprofit K-12 schools will be considered–independent school programs are not eligible.
  • Most grants are awarded for a period of one year only.
  • Inquiries should begin with a brief email sent to info@whannenberg.org.
  • Full applications must come in writing.
In addition to its public education outreach programs, the foundation supports education by funding programs developed by other organizations. These include the Annenberg Center for Communications at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

For more specific information on Annenberg Challenge Grants and their progress, visit http://www.aisr.brown.edu/challenge/sites. For more detailed grant application guidelines from the Annenberg Foundation, visit http://www.whannenberg.org/applying.htm.

Gillian Norris-Szanto, Program Officer
The Annenberg Foundation
St. David’s Center
Suite A-200
150 Radnor-Chester Road
St. David’s, PA 19087
Phone: (610) 341-9066
Fax: (610) 964-8688